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Taxpayer Group Mounts Davis Recall Initiative

Since narrowly defeating Republican businessman Bill Simon last November to win a second term in office, California Gov. Gray Davis has run into burgeoning budget problems and sinking approval ratings.

And now, some want the struggling governor out of office, spurring talk of a recall that could go beyond partisan politics.

"He's not a well-liked person in this state by just about anybody either politically or personally," said Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

In fact, Davis' approval ratings are hovering under 30 percent. Many blame his perceived bungling of the state's energy crisis and mismanagement of the state budget, which the governor himself estimates is in deficit to the tune of $35 billion.

"When he became governor he was left with a $10 billion surplus and immediately went on the most aggressive spending campaign of any state in America," said Shawn Steel, chairman of the California Republican Party.

The state GOP has yet to endorse the petition, but Steel is spearheading the recall alongside his taxpayer group, The People's Advocate, which is responsible for qualifying 12 California initiatives.

The People's Advocate submitted the petition language to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley last Thursday. Shelley's office has 10 days to approve the language or seek changes.

Davis has been downplaying the recall bid as a move by the right-wing fringe to turn back the clock on last fall's vote result. Davis, who won 47.4 percent of the vote, beat Simon by 5 percentage points or about 364,000 votes.

"We just had an election and the people in this state decided they wanted me to be governor for the next four years," Davis said.

Davis added that fiscally responsible individuals wouldn't support another election.

"This petition being circulated calls for a brand new election this summer at the cost of $25 million to the taxpayers, according to the secretary of state," he said.

Walters said if the recall makes the ballot, it will be the biggest political story in America this year, next to war of course.

Removing Davis from office requires opponents to gather roughly 900,000 signatures and hold a special election, something political observers agree, in a state of 35 million, is not completely out of the question.

However, it would be a first. In 1986, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird and two of her associates lost their bids to remain on the state Supreme Court after voters decided they overturned too many death sentences. But no petition to recall a statewide officer has ever been successful.

Fox News' Anita Vogel contributed to this report.