SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With less than two months before an unprecedented vote on unseating the governor of the most populous state, elections officials face assembling a cumbersome ballot of nearly 200 would-be replacements.
Having so many candidates qualify by Saturday's deadline presented a daunting challenge Sunday for everyone involved in the recall election, including 15.2 million registered voters who will be asked Oct. 7 whether to replace Gov. Gray Davis (search).
"The big unknown is who will turn out to vote in this election," said John Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "How many will vote on the recall question and then freeze when they see this list of over 100 names?"
The candidate total grew to 193 as the secretary of state's office sifted through paperwork Sunday. The signatures the candidates collected still must be verified before they make it on the ballot.
Some county officials are daunted by the size at the candidate list, but Janice Atkinson, assistant registrar of voters in Sonoma County, said she believes most of the issues will be sorted out by Election Day. In the event a recount is needed, some counties including hers might have to resort to hand counting, she said.
Adding a carnival atmosphere are Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt (search), former child TV star Gary Coleman (search) and Angelyne, whose buxom figure has adorned billboards around Los Angeles for years.
Schwarzenegger's campaign on Sunday released tax returns showing he paid more than $9 million in state and federal income tax in 2001 on $26.1 million in income, while giving $4.2 million to charity.
Much of the political talk Sunday focused on whether Schwarzenegger will address difficult issues.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," candidate Bill Simon called Schwarzenegger a good friend but added, "we don't know where he stands on the issues."
Simon, the Republican who lost to Davis last year, called Schwarzenegger's entry in the race a good thing "because it calls attention to the recall." But he added, "this is not time for soundbites, Hollywood scripts or short prescriptions."
Schwarzenegger has offered few specifics about his plans for California, a state in need of structural changes to help rebound from a lagging economy and a $38 billion budget deficit.
One hint at Schwarzenegger's political leanings came Sunday when his campaign confirmed that he voted in 1994 for Proposition 187, the ballot measure that denied social services to illegal immigrants, turning many Hispanics against the California Republican Party.
Schwarzenegger's main Democratic opponent on the recall ballot is Bustamante, who would be the state's second Hispanic governor and the first elected to the office. Romualdo Pacheco briefly served as acting governor in the 1870s.
"The polls show bad news for Gray Davis and although I'm always careful not to count him out, it will be very difficult for him to bring his numbers up in 60 days with Arnold sucking up all the public attention," Brian Janiskee, a political science professor at San Bernardino State University, said.
The next issue for the candidates, said Pitney, is placement on the ballot. The secretary of state planned a random drawing this week.
"It's entirely possible that the first names on the ballot could be some of the crazies," said Pitney. "This could be a big advantage for Schwarzenegger, whose name stands out.
"Early in his career, there were people in Hollywood who were afraid Schwarzenegger's name was too long," he said. "In this case, it probably helps him."
State Sen. Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican who is also running for governor, offered some political advice to the Terminator Sunday on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos.
"I would say this, there's a great deal that I'm sure Arnold Schwarzenegger could teach me about making movies," McClintock said. "There's a great deal I could teach him about the fiscal reforms necessary to set this straight -- this state right. But there's no time for training."