ON THE COVER North Coast Journal Weekly

Yes or no and who? California's recall frenzy [photos of Gray Davis, and governor candidates]
Top: Gov. Gray Davis.
Middle: Peter Camejo, Arianna Huffington, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bottom: Tom McClintock, Cruz Bustamante.


A sampling of the candidates...

IT STARTED ONE MORNING IN EARLY FEBRUARY, WHEN ANTI-TAX ADVOCATE TED COSTA -- a right-winger even by Republican standards -- announced on a Sacramento area radio station that he was collecting signatures to recall Gov. Gray Davis. The effort languished, until a conservative state legislator, Darrel Issa, chipped in $2 million of his car-alarm fortune. Within days, a professional signature-gathering drive was underway. In the end, 1.3 million voters signed petitions calling for the ouster of the man who was elected to a second term only last November.

Now, Davis is within days of suffering what would be an unprecedented humiliation. No governor of California has ever been recalled and if he were unseated, Davis's political career would almost certainly be over. Yet it would be surprising if many tears were shed, as Davis is a politician notably lacking in warmth. Some say that, ultimately, he's facing such an ignominious fate because of the emotional gulf that separates him from the electorate. Others -- notably Bill Clinton and Dianne Feinstein -- say Davis is the victim of an unjust hijacking of the governor's office led by his political enemies. Republicans, for their part, say Davis is being recalled because he brought on and then tried to conceal the state's budget crisis.

If Davis sinks -- which appears likely -- and Arnold Schwarzenegger replaces him -- also probable -- then Californians will have crossed a Rubicon, of sorts. The successful use of the recall power written into the State Constitution could very well open the door to further political turmoil -- both in the near term, if Democrats wait the required six months and counterattack with a recall bid of their own; and over the long haul, if future governors shy away from taking unpopular stands for fear of going the way of Davis. Meantime, the $30 billion deficit isn't going to disappear. If the political will is not mustered to do what everyone knows needs to be done -- cut spending and raise taxes -- the state could end up facing financial ruin.

Against that cheery backdrop we offer in this issue a hodge-podge of recall-related stories: A look at the Davis replacement candidates you haven't heard about; a Q-and-A with the Green Party's best hope, Peter Camejo; an examination of whether those leading the recall really are guilty of abusing what is their constitutionally granted right; and the skinny on what two dozen or so Humboldt voters plan to do when the voting booth curtain closes behind them on election day.



And most of us are aware of Cruz, Arianna, McClintock and Camejo. And, of course, Gary Coleman (not to mention Larry Flynt). But Logan Darrow Clements? Reva Renee Renz? Ned Roscoe?

While there's much to disagree on about the upcoming gubernatorial recall election, one thing is beyond dispute: The vast majority of the 133 candidates running to replace Gov. Gray Davis are alike in their obscurity. Since poor name recognition typically dooms a campaign, it raises the question of why these folks -- who paid as much as $3,500 to qualify for the ballot --running. We decided to e-mail them and ask.

The answers were as varied as the candidates. One said the recall is wrong and that if he wins he'll name Davis as his chief of staff. Another, a photojournalist, is running simply in order to visually chronicle the experience. A third intends to legalize prostitution. Humboldt's only candidate, HSU chemistry teacher Darin Price, wants more attention paid to North Coast issues.

Not everyone responded to our e-mail query, and we weren't able to reach all the candidates, as some appear to not have e-mail addresses. But we did contact more than 100. Here, only slightly edited, are the replies of 27 of them.

Brooke Adams, Dana Point. Business executive.

The state is a mess. The old generation has provided no leadership. They've had a $38 billion party and now they are sticking my generation with the bill. Our state needs change and action. Our leaders aren't representing the majority of Californians. They aren't even being honest. They are selling off our state and selling off their souls for votes.

Doug Anderson, Moorpark. Mortgage broker.

I have seen California go from one of the most progressive states in the nation to one of the least desirable business environments. As governor I will focus on eliminating the budget deficit [through] restraints on spending, reducing benefits to illegal immigrants and controlling the increasing cost of workers' compensation due to administrative waste and fraud. My goal is to reinstate California as a national leader in business, education and to restore personal freedoms.

Badi BadiozamaniBadi Badiozamani, San Diego. Entrepreneur, author, executive. [photo at left]

I am a candidate from the people for the people. My aim is to create an environment where we can thrive again by eliminating the barriers to our productivity. I will rescind Gov. Davis' harmful policies, such as the 300 percent car tax, and I will streamline taxes, place priority on education, stop university tuition increases and tackle the traffic that is choking our cities. I will give a voice to those living without health care and protect citizens against crime. I will revitalize government with a thoughtful, rational approach to planning and decision-making that will allow this state to rise and shine strong as a truly golden state.

Vik Bajwa, Santa Rosa. Businessman, father, entrepreneur.

[I am running] to get a savings plan in action for California. [There is] too much spending on everything. [I support a] homeland security act for California and good schools for children.

John Beard, North Hollywood. Businessman.

Davis is a bad man. He has sold our state out. I could not run [my] business this way. I would love to give my employees a 37 percent pay raise like the prison guards or other unions. Instead, I will [have to] pay my 300 percent increase in workers' compensation and let my employees pay increased taxes to pay state workers. I have no special interest group. Californians will be my only special interest group.

John Christopher Burton, Pasadena. Civil rights lawyer.

I am running to present California voters with a socialist alternative to the major candidates. California's economic slump and the resulting budget crisis cannot be attributed simply to mismanagement by Gov. Davis. California is a concentrated expression of a world economic slump and the international crisis of the capitalist system. The Bush administration's response to the crisis is the sucking of hundreds of billions away from the states to fund imperialist wars of aggression overseas. The Democrats, as big business politicians, in the long run support these same policies and do not present any meaningful opposition. The working families of the state need to build the Socialist Equality Party as a working class party independent of big business.

Logan Darrow Clements, Pacific Palisades. Businessman.

I want to maximize the economy by minimizing the government. I'm an objectivist, fan of philosopher Ayn Rand and favor minimum government so we can have laissez-faire capitalism.Warren Farrell

Warren Farrell, Carlsbad. Fathers' issues author. [photo at right]

[I am running for governor] to make sure no court ever allows a divorced mom or dad to take a child away from the other parent, assuming that parent is responsible. Children need both parents, because half the child is the mom and half the child is the dad, and when deprived of either, a child suffers. Second, I have created a new concept in social programs. There are some programs that the state can sponsor that would, ironically, both reduce the involvement of the state and, instead of costing the state money, save the state billions of dollars.

Lorraine FontanesLorraine (Abner Zurd) Fontanes, Los Angeles. Filmmaker. [photo at left]

I began by making an autobiographical film of the process of collecting signatures and qualifying for the ballot, which I thought would be useful and informational for many citizens. By the end of the process I had spoken to so many people and been touched by so many lives that I felt I had a responsibility to do everything in my power to help California regain her sanity and save her future.

Diana FossDiana Foss, San Jose. Mother. [photo at right]

Although I have no political experience, I've always been interested and aware of what's going on in politics. And the prospect of Darrell Issa's spending almost $2 million to buy himself an election got me so angry that I decided I had to do something about it.

I am running only to oppose the recall. Gov. Davis was legitimately reelected less than a year ago, and he has committed no malfeasance that would justify recalling him. The recall should be the "nuclear option" of politics, reserved only for the worst cases of misconduct in office. But this recall is being used as a tool of day-to-day partisan politics, opening the door to more frivolous recalls in the future. I don't want anyone to vote for me, but I do want you to vote no on Oct. 7.

Rich GosseRich Gosse, San Rafael. Educator. [photo at left]

I am running for governor because I have the solution to our budget crisis and also our high crime rate: decriminalize victimless crimes (drugs, gambling, prostitution). This would cut serious crime in half in California, because drug addicts would no longer have to burglarize our homes and mug us on the street in order to pay for their exorbitant habits. It would also save billions of dollars that are currently being wasted arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating victimless criminals. Once we decriminalize these vices, we can tax them and raise the $38 billion we need to solve our financial woes.

Ivan Hall, Redding. Custom denture manufacturer.

I am running because it's a historic opportunity for a common individual to be on the ballot for governor of California. This is my opportunity to say what I think California should do. California should massively invest in photovoltaics and place them on all appropriate government buildings -- thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels and the need to build more centralized power plants and transmission lines.

Jim Hoffmann, Manteca. Teacher.

The problem with California is that the politicians forget who they work for -- the voters. Sacramento has too many egos, not enough brains. I am a working, middle-class candidate who represents the average person who pays the bills for everyone else. If elected, I will make Sacramento bow to the needs of the people, and not the whims of the elected politicians.

Kelly Kimball and Scott Mednick, Calabasas. Business executives.

[We are] running for governor to draw attention to the fact that any system that allows two people to be on the ballot to run the 5th largest economy in the world while promoting their beer is a system that must be fixed!

Eric KorevaarEric Korevaar, La Jolla. Scientist/businessman. [photo at right]

I am running for governor to oppose the recall, which got on the ballot in a manner I object to involving paid signature-gathering sponsored by a single individual for political purposes.

Dick LaneDick Lane, Sunnyvale. Educator. [photo at left]

Six of my seven children were born in California, so I have a very personal stake in the future of our state. I am a lifelong Democrat who can work across party lines in the Assembly and Senate.

I am running to restore the $443 million cuts to the California State University system in the current budget, establish a basic level of health care for all, similar to Oregon and Hawaii, and provide the alternative of public financing for all state elections.

Gary LeonardGary Leonard, Los Angeles. Photojournalist/author. [photo at right]

As a photojournalist, this was a fantastic opportunity to cover a story from the inside out, and the outside in. I am opposed to the recall, but since it was going to happen with or without me, I jumped in. It's been an incredible story.

Paul MarianoPaul Mariano, Martinez. Attorney.

I am running for governor because I am opposed to the recall. I am running for Gray Davis because he can't run on the second half of the ballot. My first act as governor will be to name Gray Davis as my chief of staff in charge of the day-to-day governance of the state.

Gray Davis may be unpopular, but he is the duly elected governor of California.

He won that post in a fair and democratic election held just last year. My candidacy is the only way to ensure that the legitimately elected governor remains in office.

People are now trying to remove him from the governor's office. It's unfair and undemocratic that a small percentage of last year's electorate can get this costly recall measure on the ballot, and then prevent Gov. Davis from running on the second half of the ballot. All of the people who vote no on the first part of the ballot are disenfranchised on the second part where they are not allowed to vote for Gray Davis. That's not democracy.

There is much more at stake here than the governorship, or the popularity of a person. Our democratic freedoms and principles are at risk. I am running for governor to protect the integrity and finality of our electoral process, to protect democracy itself.

John "Jack" Mortensen, Folsom. Contractor/businessman.

Who will effect a difference in this structure of government to assure that the "common good" will be fairly included? Who will stand, party aside, special interest aside, and reform and refine this government? At this point I feel Gray Davis has the most to lose and the most to gain. Vote no on the recall and yes for Jack Mortensen. The people have been allowed to speak and be heard. If Davis wants to save his career, he needs these three remaining years to redeem himself. Any other top end candidate would be stalemated by the Legislature much like they did to Clinton in his first presidential term.

Heather Peters, Santa Monica. Mediator.

I am running for governor to bring accountability, responsibility and accessibility back to Sacramento and to use my skills as a professional mediator to break the deadlock in the Legislature.

Chuck PinedaCharles "Chuck" Pineda, Jr., Sacramento. State hearing officer. [photo at right]

I intend to tax credit card companies with a usury tax of 40 to 50 percent on interest over 12 percent. Half the nation is in credit card debt! Some credit card companies can charge as much as 27 percent on one's debt, especially if one is late, or forgets to mail the letter. That's another way of getting our state budget in the black. As governor I would build world-class schools, fix our roads, deal with gridlock on our freeways and change public policy from costly incarceration to crime prevention. [I support] foot patrols in crime-ridden neighborhoods. If we can protect the people of the inner cities, people in the suburbs will be able to leave their doors open.

Darin PriceDarin Price, McKinleyville. HSU chemistry instructor. [photo at left]

We must take a new approach and realize we do not need new taxes to keep the programs we want if we get every bit of value out of every dollar. I also know the North Coast has largely been ignored by the rest of the state. Our resources are taken and our fish and wildlife suffer the consequences. We need to send a message to the rest of the state that our North Coast issues do matter and we won't be ignored.

Reva Renee RenzReva Renee Renz, Tustin. Small business owner. [photo at right]

I am a fiscal conservative and a "thinking Republican." As a small-business owner I want to ensure changes in the failing workers' compensation system and see restraints taken off business. Returning this state to a vibrant business environment is the first step towards our recovery. As the owner of Deva's [a bar in Orange County], I am against any increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco. As a citizen, I want to protect our personal freedoms, which are slowly eroding thanks to liberal Democrats. What happened to self-responsibility? We need more programs that help people help themselves.

Ned Roscoe, Benicia. Cigarette retailer.

Our customers pay $1,000 more in taxes than similar citizens. They're concerned about paying their rent and their mortgages and having jobs. They want no new taxes of any kind, no stupid new laws of any kind, someone to get the work of government done and to make California competitive with other states. I could do the work -- and someone needs to do it.

Georgy Russell, Mountain View. Software engineer.

California has a plutocracy, a government for the wealthy, and I want to put an end to that. I want to see the Democratic Party take stands on tough issues, and distinguish itself from moderate Republicans. My platform includes clean energy, clean elections, abolition of three strikes and the death penalty, passage of a gay marriage initiative, legalization of marijuana and fiscal discipline in California.

Lawrence Strauss, Studio City. Lawyer, businessperson, student. [photo at left]

I am fiscally responsible and socially aware. My life experience has given me the ability to solve problems and bring people together. Every individual has to spend within his budget. Government needs to be fiscally responsible and not spend money when it does not have it.




 Humboldt Residents on how they plan to vote -- and why.

SUSAN MASTEN, Yurok tribal chairperson
No / Bustamante
"[Arnold's] ads show that he knows nothing about Indian Country."

CHRIS CRAWFORD, president of Justice Served
Yes / Schwarzenegger
"Davis panders shamelessly to special interests."

MARILYN BENEMANN, co-owner, Ferndale Books
No / Bustamante
"We need an experienced person."

JOAN RAINWATER-GISH, Senior Vice President,
Six Rivers Bank
No / Bustamante
"[The recall] starts the erosion of our democracy."

JOHN WOOLLEY, 3rd District Supervisor
No / Bustamante
"Recalls should be reserved for significant illegal activities and/or mental impairment."

LARRY GOLDBERG, owner, NetHelp
No / Bustamante
"I'm sick over how the democratic process has been hijacked by rich Republicans."

MIKE HARVEY, chairman, Humboldt County Republican Party
Yes / Scharwzenegger
"What this recall is about is the lack of honesty in Sacramento."

BRIAN MAU, Humboldt County Democrats
No / Bustamante
"It's a circus of amateurs, and we're paying $65 million to watch."

PETER LA VALLEE, mayor of Eureka
No / Bustamante
"Gov. Davis has done nothing to warrant a recall."

DAN HAUSER, Arcata city manager
No / Bustamante
"I do not like Gray Davis [but] the recall is not appropriate."

ROY HEIDER, former 2nd District Supervisor
Yes / McClintock
[McClintock] seems to be the only one who's answering the questions.

LIBBY MAYNARD, Ink People Center for the Arts
No / Bustamante
"Davis is not a criminal."

DEVIN THEOBALD, president of the HSU College Republicans
Yes / Schwarzenegger
"The only thing Republican about [Arnold] is the letter `R' next to his name."

SELMA K. SONNTAG, chair of the Department of Government and Politics, Humboldt State
No / Undecided
"[Voting for Camejo] would be making a statement."

LINDA DISIERE, real estate broker
Yes / Schwarzenegger
I would have voted for [Ueberroth]; he's a real businessperson.

RAY RAPHAEL, historian and author
No / Undecided
"It's bizarre and ironic that the guy who is talking sense -- [Camejo] -- is marginalized."

DOUG THRON, 2002 Green Party candidate for Assembly
Yes / Camejo
"Gray Davis is the most crooked bastard who ever ran for office."

DR. ANN LINDSAY, physician
No / Probably Bustamante
"[A recall would] grind the whole business of governing to a halt."

No / Schwarzenegger
"We should respect the election process and not recall somebody because we disagree with their views."

DEAN HEYENGA, mayor of Trinidad
No / Undecided
"Anybody with a million dollars can get a [recall] on the ballot."

No / Undecided
"The Republicans are trying to overthrow an election."

DAVE MESERVE, Arcata city council member
No / Camejo
"The whole thing is inconsequential in the face of what's going on nationally."

MEL BERTI, mayor of Fortuna
Yes / Schwarzenegger
"If we don't get rid of Davis, he'll break every city and county in the next two years."

RICK GENTRY, owner, Bohemian Books
No / No one
"I think it's a mistake."

Suspect Proposition
Is Prop. 54 color blind, or just blind to racial discrimination?


IN ADDITION TO THE GOVERNOR'S RECALL , there's another controversial item on the Oct. 7 ballot -- Proposition 54, which depending on who you talk to will either promote racial unity or hinder efforts to create an equitable society.

Dubbed the "racial privacy initiative," Prop. 54 would ban the gathering and use of racial data by state and local governments, with some exceptions.

Proponents say that California must become a "color blind" to achieve racial harmony.

"At one time, it was important to have a check-off box of what race you are, but it's time to move on and to think of ourselves as Californians," said John Fullerton, a certified public accountant in Eureka and a former chair of the Republican Central Committee for Humboldt County. Classifying people as black or white or Hispanic is "divisive," he said, "and in the long run, Prop. 54 will help in that divisiveness."

Opponents of the measure argue that the initiative will make it much more difficult for researchers to gather the raw data that are needed to detect discrimination in areas such as public health, law enforcement and minority enrollment. Far from promoting unity, they say, the measure will mask bias.

"We can't work on solutions if we can't even get information to find out what the problem is," said Christina Accomando, associate professor of English at Humboldt State, who also teaches ethnic studies.

"The reality is that racial disparities continue to exist in U.S. society. By banning information, you don't end discrimination -- you merely blind us to the reality of discrimination. Closing your eyes to something doesn't make it go away."

Prop. 54's author is none other than Ward Connerly, the African-American University of California regent who made history by spearheading Proposition 209, the controversial 1996 initiative that banned affirmative action in public education, employment and contracting. In a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, he came out for the racial privacy initiative, arguing in a "can't-we-all-get-along" vein that income and class are more relevant to today's social problems than race.

In the written argument included in voters' guides, however, Connerly and other supporters get more strident.

"Classification systems were invented to keep certain groups `in their place' and to deny them full rights," he writes, citing slavery and the Nazi extermination of Jews as examples.

Besides, we Californians "resent" being classified and are getting tired of government forms "with row after row of these rigid and silly little `race' boxes," the argument states.

The fact that the measure is described as one of "privacy" is intentionally misleading, said Dr. Ann Lindsay, a physician and past president of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society.

"I think that voters who aren't careful will think it's a good idea," she said. "It's a trick."

Lindsay said that while the initiative includes an exemption for "medical data," it would apply only to doctors' records of their own patients -- not to public health surveys and epidemiological studies that help determine, for instance, whether certain diseases are more prevalent among certain ethnic groups.

(The Legislative Analyst's written analysis of the measure hedges on this point, saying that public health surveys' use of race as a classification "might be allowed to continue.")

Accomando agreed that privacy was a red herring in the issue, since indicating one's race is voluntary. "Anyone who wants to remain private about their ethnicity can do so."

Also on the ballot Tuesday is Proposition 53, which "dedicates up to 3 percent of General Fund revenues annually" to state and local infrastructure projects, such as highways, universities, parks, wastewater treatment facilities and prisons. The projects do not include those needed at schools and community colleges, since funds are already earmarked for those uses.

Fullerton, the CPA, said he supports the measure because governments tend to neglect infrastructure needs in tight budget years.

Such an approach "will come back and hurt us" in the future, he said.

"If you don't fix that hole in the roof and you let it go, you end up having to replace the roof instead of just a simple repair," he said.

But Ronnie Swartz, a social work instructor at Humboldt State, said the measure is not as straightforward and innocuous as it sounds.

When money is dedicated specifically for one use, other programs will pay, he said.

"There will be even less to spend for health care, for the child welfare system, for the criminal justice system, for public safety," Swartz said. "People think, `Yeah, we should force them to spend a lot of money every year [on infrastructure].' Folks are not necessarily thinking of the implications."

Little known by voters is the fact that the measure was a critical dealmaker in the record-length state budget negotiations of 2002; it convinced state Republicans to sign on to the budget plan.

"We've been anxious to get something like this done for quite a while," Bill Hauck, director of the California Business Roundtable, an association of corporate chiefs, told the Associated Press.

The measure is supported by Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assocation, and Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce.


Playing Hardball
The recall isn't illegal. It's just mean.


DEMOCRATS ALL THE WAY UP TO SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN and former President Bill Clinton have been repeating it for several weeks now: The recall of Gov. Gray Davis is an attempt by Republicans to hijack the governor's office.

Is that true?

Yes and no, according to a local historian and two Bay Area public policy experts.

John Ellwood, a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, said that the popular perception that an elected official can only be recalled if he or she is guilty of misconduct in office

is simply false.

"Those who sign [a] recall petition can offer any reason for ouster -- not just malfeasance in office," Ellwood wrote in an op-ed that appeared in the Washington Post in late July. "Voters can throw the rascal out because they have changed their minds about his policies, because of his private life, or simply because they no longer like his looks."

In a telephone interview this week, Ellwood affirmed that those seeking to unseat Davis are playing by the rules. But he said that given the fact that Democrats may retaliate by launching a recall bid of their own in the event that Davis is kicked out, "I think it's a terrible way to run the state government."

Ellwood said he disagreed with the term hijacking because it implies some sort of long-planned, clandestine effort. "This is not a story of a grand conspiracy hatched in the basement of the White House," Ellwood said. "It's a story of Republicans playing hardball and Democrats playing softball."

How have the Democrats played softball? Essentially by failing to unite.

One hardball response, Ellwood said, would have been to find a stronger replacement candidate than Bustamante. "He's sinking like a stone. There's a bias against short, fat guys." People who heard last week's debate on radio, Ellwood said, praised Bustamante's performance. But not those who saw it on television. "He just doesn't look good," Ellwood said.

Another hardball ploy would have been to refuse to put up a replacement candidate and to have united behind Davis. "They could have made it from day one Davis versus Schwarzenegger," Ellwood said.

Henry Brady, a professor of political science and public policy at Berkeley, said the timing of the recall effort particularly troubled him.

"It started back in January" -- the same month Davis was inaugurated for a second term -- "and you have to ask yourself if he was given any chance to prove he could do better in his second term than in his first. Is that how we want to run things?"

Local historian and author Ray Raphael said the recall effort against Davis "does not fit the mold for which the recall was intended, which was to curb flagrant abuse.

"One political party that could not muster 50 percent of the vote [in the last election] is taking advantage of a valid but imperfect law in such a way that they can gain control [of the governor's office] with, say, 30 percent of the vote."

Republicans, of course, argue that Davis deserves to be recalled because he more than anyone else is responsible for the financial mess the state is in.

The power of the electorate to recall elected officials all the way up to the governor was inserted into the state constitution in 1911, during the "progressive era," a reform movement aimed in part at combating the powerful influence of railroads.

"The major railroads were able, by buying off the Legislature if necessary, to thwart attempts to create policies that would provide greater rights and benefits to workers and small-business owners," Ellwood wrote in the Post. "Reformers felt that playing by the rules was useless, [so led by then-Gov. Hiram Johnson they] enacted a series of procedures that allowed citizens to go around the existing decision-making process to make policy directly."

California came late to the progressive era reforms, and like a lot of latecomers its reforms were particularly radical. That explains why California has the most lenient recall provision of any state -- the signature of only 12 percent of those who voted in the most recent election is all that's needed to trigger a recall.

Ellwood thinks that needs to be raised, probably to 25 percent, the national average for states. He also thinks the law needs to be amended so that in the event a governor is recalled, the lieutenant governor would take over -- either until the next regular election, or as soon as a separate special election can take place.

Either way, that would go a long way toward removing the partisan incentive that now exists, where the party not occupying the governor's office may be tempted to launch a recall any time the governor does something unpopular.

Camejo, at least, didn't ignore Humboldt
Green Party candidate says he's not a spoiler


Peter CamejoASIDE FROM THE SOLE LOCAL CANDIDATE, DARIN PRICE, HUMBOLDT COUNTY had little chance to meet the gubernatorial candidates face to face. A notable exception was the Green Party's Peter Camejo, who came through the area late last month. What follows are excerpts from an interview that he granted to the Journal between campaign stops.

Why are you running for governor?
There's a crisis in California around the budget. We had five years with the greatest income ever in the state of California, and instead of ending with a very sizable reserve surplus, we ended up with a massive deficit, the worst deficit any state has ever had. It shows utter incompetence and fiscal irresponsibility. People are very disenchanted with Gray Davis, but not necessarily happy with what the Republicans offer; after all, they've created the biggest deficit the world has ever seen in the federal government and the people of the United States will have to pay for that.
So what we're calling for is a fair tax. The wealthiest people in California pay the lowest tax rate. The average person is paying a 28 percent higher tax rate than the wealthy. I've made this point: If you increase the wealthiest 5 percent to the same tax rate as the average person, you'll have a surplus in the budget. That's what we should do instead of cutting back education, health care and all the social services -- just create a fair tax. Corporations used to pay 9.6 percent of their profits in taxes in California, now they're paying 5.3 percent; they almost cut them in half. Taxes have been going down on the wealthy while they go up on the poor.

Do you blame Gray Davis for this shift?
The fiscal irresponsibility is [Davis' fault]. He's the one who was in charge.

Do you support the idea of recalling Davis?
Absolutely. I don't think he should be allowed to remain in office one more day. The things he's done are beyond the pale. The man is corrupt. He has violated the simplest care for the state. He signed contracts with the energy companies giving away our money, then tried to hide [that within those contracts was a clause saying] that if they polluted, California would pay their fines, which in effect gives the companies a free license to pollute.
I think anyone who opposes [the recall] because the Republicans happened to have initiated it has their logic backwards. Just because you disagree with those who initiated it and think they have ulterior motives, it doesn't make the [recall] invalid. Gray Davis has opened the door for the Republicans to take the governorship despite the fact that they're a minority in California. My job is to close that door, [to stop] the Republicans from coming in. But you don't do that by supporting Davis' incompetence. You don't support a bad thing in order to stop another bad thing. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Press reports hint that you would not be opposed to Bustamante winning.
I've called on Gov. Davis to resign, because there's not a single poll that shows him surviving the recall. Let Bustamante become governor [now]; the recall then fails; the Republicans don't win; and Davis is out of office. People say this means I'm for Bustamante. I'm not. My platform is clear; I'm critical of the Democrats. But given this situation, this crisis that we have, I want to make it clear, if the Republicans should get in, it's Gov. Davis' fault.
Certainly I see Bustamante as very different from Gray Davis and very different from Arnold Schwarzenegger, who I see as a very dangerous person. [Arnold] is hiding his platform and the reason he hides it is because the people would be against it. But we know what it really is. He might put on a good act, but we know who his director is -- it's Pete Wilson. And we know who the producer is -- it's George Bush. And we know what they stand for, so we know what's going to happen. Pete Wilson robbed our pension funds when he was governor; he fought to increase the apartheid system against the immigrants, who are here forever to stay, who are the lowest paid workers in California. He wanted to throw their children out of school. This man is horrendous, yet that is who Arnold Schwarzenegger turns to.
What I'm saying is, the Greens have the platform to solve this. If we had [instant run-off] elections [in which voters rank candidates in order of preference], the first choice would be Green, the second choice could be Bustamante for those who want to stop Arnold.

Some would argue that under our current two-party system the Greens merely play the role of spoiler.
The problem with that argument is it's a total insult to the voters. No one is forced to vote Green. People who ask such questions are implying that the Greens should take it upon themselves not to allow people to vote Green, that we shouldn't run. Every voter knows what can happen [when they vote Green]. But some people are so angry at the Democrats and the Republicans, so frustrated with democracy in America, that they don't care who gets elected. They are going to send a message to the existing system.
It's like the Nader vote. Every person who voted for Nader in Florida knew it meant it could [help] Bush. So people should be angry at those voters, not at Nader. All Nader did was say, "This is what America needs," and presented a platform.
What we have to do is change the election laws [and] establish instant run-off voting to end spoilership. [Because instant run-off voting allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, when there is no initial majority winner, a runoff recount can be conducted without a new election to determine which candidate is actually preferred by a majority of voters.] If we establish that, the Green vote will explode and the Green Party will rise very rapidly. Why [should we have] a system where the voter has to chose between voting for a third party and having a result that is the opposite of their intent? The fact that the electoral system is set up to work against third parties is more reason for us to run, and to present our alternative, especially to the Democratic Party, because that's who's being hurt by the Greens. We say, "Change your ways, allow democracy, or you will pay a penalty."




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