by Rima Thompson
Of the 135 candidates for governor in California’s unprecedented recall race, five can be viewed as viable opponents to replace current Gov. Gray Davis.
The five candidates are the Green Party’s Peter Camejo, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, commentator Arianna Huffington, Sen. Tom McClintock and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Camejo is an avid social and environmental advocate. He is the chair of a financial company that supports responsible social investments and is a strong supporter of gay, lesbian, women’s and Latino rights.
Bustamante, a Democrat, is California’s current lieutenant governor and is dedicated to consumer, social, education and health care issues. His political credits include reducing California classroom sizes, equipping several California classrooms with updated textbooks and welfare reform.
Huffington, an Independent, is a syndicated columnist whose most recent book is called “How To Overthrow the Government.” She has written several columns attacking President Bush and his anti-drug campaigns and is involved with several social campaigns.
McClintock, a Republican, is best known for his vast experience with state budgeting and taxing. He served two terms on the State Assembly from the 38th Assembly District before winning the state senate race.
Schwarzenegger, a former body builder, has no political experience but is an active Republican and has starred in such movies as “Terminator,” “Last Action Hero” and “Kindergarten Cop.”
Peter Ueberroth, an independent and former baseball commissioner, was the sixth top candidate but he withdrew his bid on Tuesday.
“I will continue to work to turn California around,” he said in a statement. “I will work to bring jobs to the state. But I will no longer do that as a candidate for governor. I intend to meet with each of the major candidates for governor. I will ask them to discuss their plans for jobs creation. At that point, I will endorse the candidate who I believe can do the most to bring jobs back.”
However, in a televised statewide debate last Wednesday, Davis and five of the then-viable candidates debated issues from taxes to gay rights and medical marijuana usage.
On taxes, McClintock said, “I’m the one candidate who has taken the no-tax pledge. I will rescind the governor’s illegal car tax.”
Education was also another hot topic during the spirited debate.
“I would put teachers first,” Huffington said. “I would put books not bars as my priority.”
Bustamante then said, “The teachers of this state already know how to teach. We need to get out of their way. Teachers need to have a lot more say about what goes on in their classroom,” he added.
Schwarzenegger declined participation in the debate, which drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats alike, instead deciding to campaign at Cal State Long Beach.
In his brief speech, he covered unemployment and the rising fees of tuition for California state colleges.
Most in attendance at CSULB were supportive of Schwarzenegger who said, “politicians have had their chance and they have failed. I’m tired of hearing politicians say ‘We can’t do this’ or ‘We can’t do that.’ I will be the governor who believes in what California can do.”
He later said, “1.6 million people have signed the recall petition, and they are saying ‘We are mad as hell and we are not gonna take it anymore.'”
The recall, which has been a part of state law since 1911, provides citizens with the right to oust an elected official before their term is up.
A replacement candidate must be at least 35 years of age, a citizen of the United States as well as a resident of California for five years, and a registered voter.
To appear on the ballot, a candidate must pay a $3,500 filing fee and attain 65 signatures from registered voters. The $3,500 filing fee can be waived if a candidate has at least 10,000 signatures.
All the 135 candidates have fulfilled this requirement; the question remaining is which of the top five candidates can truly address and amend California’s budget deficit and other needs.