Governors Meeting Divides Over Davis Recall Vote
By Jason White, Assistant Staff Writer
California Gov. Gray Davis (D) and his looming recall vote dominated the opening day of the National Governors Association's (NGA) annual summer meeting as Democratic and Republican governors held dueling news conferences to defend and attack him.
Democratic governors said Davis shouldn't be held responsible for national economic problems that are plaguing nearly every state. Republicans charged Davis mismanaged his state into a massive budget deficit and should pay for it with his job. The recall election is scheduled for Oct. 7.
"We think the facts are pretty clear. California has been mismanaged, and it has been mismanaged to a significant degree, which is why it's having the first ever recall for a governor in that state," Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) said at a Saturday news conference.
"You can look at that $38 billion deficit and see that California spent way too much in the good years and I think it's paying the price today. I think the leadership of Gray Davis has been found lacking," he said.
Owens heads the Republican Governors Association (RGA). Last week, the RGA issued a news release welcoming actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the race, though Owens said the RGA has no plans to contribute its financial resources to the recall effort.
"At this point there are a number of good Republicans running and we don't anticipate getting involved and choosing which Republican might be elected," he said.
Earlier Saturday, Democratic governors repeated accusations that the recall effort was the work of disgruntled Republicans.
"The people of California should not be fooled. This did not begin as democracy in action. On the contrary this began as a modern day Republican strategy to win elections through redistricting, recounts and recalls," said Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D).
Locke, who serves as chief of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), said a recall in California, which has an economy bigger than many countries, could send economic shockwaves across the United States.
"The recall is bad for the 5th largest economy in the world. And many of our states, other states, depend on what happens in California. So it would be bad economically for the entire country," he said.
Locke said he understands voter frustration with the economy, but that he doesn't think Californians should blame their governor for being dealt a tough hand.
"I don't think people should resort to recalls just because governors are having to make tough decisions. You have 47 states across America that have faced deficits," he said.
Locke said the Democratic governors haven't decided yet whether to aid Davis financially through the DGA. That decision may come this week, he said.
Some governors attending the four-day conference in Indianapolis made an effort to stay above the recall fray. Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R), incoming chair of the NGA, said it's not his place to decide whether Davis should be recalled.
"In a democracy the people are always the boss. Many states have a process that provides for the avenue of recall. What the people ultimately do in California, nobody knows. ...But that's clearly for the people of California to decide," he said.