In the first public sign that Gov. Gray Davis (search)' allies view the effort to recall the governor as a serious threat, a group of labor and religious leaders said Tuesday they are launching a campaign to oppose it.

A longtime senior Davis adviser, Steve Smith, will be taking a leave of absence from his administration job to assist with the campaign, said Carroll Wills, communications director for the California Professional Firefighters (search), which is a leader of the new effort.

The involvement of Smith, a top adviser during Davis' gubernatorial campaigns, suggests that Davis, a Democrat, is taking the recall seriously after months of playing it down.

Smith, who is secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (search), was on vacation Tuesday and did not immediately respond to a request for comment left with Wills.

The new effort, "Taxpayers Against the Recall," will formally launch Wednesday outside a Sacramento fire station.

In addition to Dan Terry, president of the California Professional Firefighters, other co-chairs of the new group are: Rev. Cecil B. Murray of the First AME Church in Los Angeles; Mary Bergen of the California Federation of Teachers; Fred Keeley, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League; and Miguel Contreras, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.