Gov. Gray Davis' (search) allies are launching a campaign to thwart Republican-led efforts to recall him, the first public sign the Democratic governor could be taking the drive seriously after months of playing it down.

The "Taxpayers Against the Recall" movement, to be announced Wednesday outside a Sacramento fire station, will be run by longtime senior Davis adviser Steve Smith.

Campaigns to recall governors are a staple of California politics: Every governor in the last 50 years has faced one, although none has made the ballot.

Political consultants have viewed the recall effort more seriously since the involvement earlier this month of Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (search), who donated $445,000 to the effort and formed a committee to raise money to replace Davis.

The involvement of Smith, a top adviser during Davis' gubernatorial campaigns and former political director of the California Democratic Party (search), suggests Davis is taking the recall seriously, political commentators say.

Davis aides insist the governor is as unconcerned as ever.

"I don't think he sees it as any more of a threat than he did when it first popped up," said Davis adviser Roger Salazar.

The anti-recall campaign will have a budget of $1 million to $3 million and petitions are already circulating, said Carroll Wills, communications director for the California Professional Firefighters (search), a leader of the effort.

Religious, education and labor leaders are involved in the campaign to ensure Davis stays in office.

The recall drive was begun this winter by Republican activists who claim the governor misled the public about the state's record budget deficit and mishandled the energy crisis.

Already a lame duck due to term limits, Davis has the lowest approval rating of any California governor in 55 years.

Recall backers began collecting signatures two months ago and must collect 897,158 by Sept. 2 to get the recall on the ballot. As of Tuesday, the secretary of state reported receiving 18,590 signatures.