WASHINGTON – Two California Democrats in Congress urged Sen. Dianne Feinstein (search) on Tuesday to run to replace Gov. Gray Davis (search) in the recall election, shattering united Democratic support for the embattled governor.
"It is no secret that Gov. Davis is in trouble, and I seriously doubt that he can survive the recall effort," Dooley said. He made his suggestion about Feinstein in a statement.
"There are many who believe we should have a strong Democrat on that No. 2 question," Sanchez told The Associated Press in an interview.
Voters will face two ballot questions, whether to recall Davis and who could replace him.
The lawmakers' comments came as San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown convened a meeting of leading Democratic strategists to discuss how to defeat the recall. Keeping major Democrats off the ballot is a top goal because Davis allies believe that would give the governor a better chance of survival.
The deadline for getting on the ballot is Aug. 9.
Also Tuesday, recall proponents and representatives of potential Republican candidates were meeting at the Los Angeles office of Gerry Parsky, President Bush's top California adviser, to discuss how the state party can assist with the recall.
Meanwhile, a consultant close to Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was extremely unlikely the actor would run. As a result, attention shifted to friend and fellow moderate Republican Richard Riordan.
"If Arnold runs, I'm not running. If he doesn't run I will seriously consider it," the former Los Angeles mayor told The Associated Press on Tuesday. He said a decision would be made soon, but declined further comment.
In Washington, Dooley said Feinstein, who opposes the recall and has said she does not intend to run, offered no indication in a conversation Monday that she would. Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Feinstein, said the senator would have no comment.
Like other California Democrats in Congress, Dooley and Sanchez publicly opposed the petition drive to put the recall on the ballot.
But Dooley said having no Democrat on the ballot is an unacceptable risk.
"There is significant apprehension among Democrats about embracing a strategy that is solely committed to defeating a recall," he said.
Sanchez called Davis a victim of the recall process.
"But having said that, the question is, if we lose that first question, what is the choice we give voters," she said.
Allies of Davis downplayed the comments.
"Look at the roster of Democrats across this country and across this state who are supporting the governor. It is as impressive as it gets," said Peter Ragone, spokesman for Californians Against the Costly Recall.
"And the Democratic Party is going to stay united because we all believe that no one should support an effort by the right wing of the Republican Party to have a recall election."
In a piece of good news for Davis, the state Assembly approved a compromise budget Tuesday, ending a weekslong stalemate. Davis said he will sign it this week.
"Clearly you can't say we have a $38 billion problem anymore," Davis said when asked how the budget resolution would affect the recall.
GOP businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in November, took out nominating papers Tuesday that would allow him to become a candidate. He declined to say when he would decide whether to run, but said: "We're prepared to put together a big, strong campaign."
Also Tuesday, a federal judge struck down part of California's recall law, ruling that voters will be allowed to cast a ballot for a potential successor to Davis even if they do not vote on whether he should be removed from office.
Tuesday's ruling will change how the Oct. 7 recall election is carried out. Under the state law, voters could choose "yes" or "no" on whether Davis should be recalled. And only voters who cast a "yes" or a "no" could then choose a potential successor from a list on the same ballot.
In an interview with CNN, Davis said he views the ruling "as a positive sign for me. People now can vote yes or no or skip it completely and go on to the next issue."
The only declared Republican candidate so far is Rep. Darrell Issa, who funded the recall drive, while state Sen. Tom McClintock, is likely to run.