Issa Will Attempt Rescue of Davis Recall Movement

Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), a multi-millionaire car alarm manufacturer, will try to revive the flagging movement to recall Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis.

Many reports last month indicated the recall movement was running out of steam. Through March 31, the recall committee had raised only $169,407 and its leaders said they lacked the funds needed to hire professional signature gatherers.

Facing a September 2 deadline for collecting 897,158 valid voter signatures to place the recall petition on the ballot, the committee had collected just over 100,000 signatures.

Now, Issa, who previously was not involved in the movement, says he will create a new committee, called Rescue California, to collect the needed signatures. He will also make a six-figure donation as "seed money" to the new committee, he told me.

The committee will be quarterbacked by veteran California political consultant Dave Gillilard and will retain pollster Bob Moore, a former head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

California political observers interpret Issa’s commitment to the recall effort as a strong sign he wants to run for governor himself in the event Davis can be recalled.

Some veterans of the recall movement wish Issa had stepped in earlier.

"Yes, it would have simplified things," said Sal Russo, political consultant to Recall Gray Davis, the original committee. "But, look, they are using the same petitions as we are and People’s Advocate [the signature-gathering group that secured ballot position for the historic Proposition 13 tax ceiling in 1978] is using. As far as I’m concerned, the more committees, the merrier."

Russo said his committee had been doing well in collecting signatures using volunteers. "We were making tremendous strides in terms of collecting signatures through the Internet, talk radio, volunteers, and direct mail," he said. He cited popular talk show hosts Eric Hogue (KZKZ, Sacramento), Melanie Morgan (KSFO, San Francisco), and Roger Hedgecock (KOGO, San Diego) as "real trailblazers in this movement."

The only stumbling block the committee had, he told me, was in raising big money.

Under California’s unique recall laws, the questions of whether Davis should be recalled and who should succeed him would be placed on the same ballot. Thus, if a majority of voters decided he should be removed, the Californians would automatically choose a new governor at the same time on the same ballot.

There have been 31 attempts to recall California governors under this law, and every one has failed.

The Field Poll recently tested a list of possible successors if Davis were recalled and found that the front-runner was Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante with 22% of the vote. He was followed by Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 17%; 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon, 15%; Democratic Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, 11%; former Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones,10%; and Democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides, 4%.