Union leadership backs Davis in battle to remain governor

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES - The leadership of the AFL-CIO and California's largest labor organization asked Democratic officials yesterday not to run in the state's recall election, a boost to Gov. Gray Davis' goal of keeping fellow Democrats off the ballot to improve his chances of avoiding removal.

Davis' campaign believes his chances of defeating the recall effort are stronger if no Democrats are offered as alternatives. But some Democratic leaders are worried that if they don't offer a candidate, they will be giving the Republicans an open field should Davis lose.


A major part of Davis' strategy is to galvanize his base of labor supporters and to demonize the Republicans seeking to remove him as right-wing conservatives out of step with the basic values of Californians.

"We believe this is a referendum to reverse the vote of a majority of voters," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation.


Davis won a second term in November, narrowly defeating Republican Bill Simon.

In line with Davis' approach to the recall, Pulaski and the executive committee of the AFL-CIO portrayed those seeking Davis' ouster as people from the extreme right wing trying to usurp the will of those who voted for him nine months ago.

With only four days remaining before would-be candidates must declare their intentions, two high-profile people were expected to reveal their decisions today.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he will announce his plans before expounding on the decision on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight. Schwarzenegger, who is expected to stay out of the race, donated $50,000 to the recall effort Monday.

Columnist Arianna Huffington scheduled a news conference today at which she is expected to announce that she will be a candidate to replace Davis should he be recalled.

Huffington is the former wife of Michael Huffington, a wealthy California Republican who held a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and spent $29 million of his own money in an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in 1994. He has signaled that he also may get into the race.

Once Schwarzenegger makes his intentions clear, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan is expected to enter the race.

The Oct. 7 ballot will be in two parts. The first is a yes-or-no question on whether Davis should be removed from office. The second part is a list of candidates to replace him. If Davis is ousted, the person who gets the largest number of votes becomes the next governor.


Nearly 400 people have registered their intention to run.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.