LOS ANGELES – Gov. Gray Davis (search), fighting to keep his job in the recall election, received two bursts of Democratic support Saturday as he gave his party's national radio address and was endorsed by one of its leading presidential candidates.
In the Democrats' response to President Bush's weekly radio speech, Davis sharply criticized the Bush administration's economic policies, saying that "Republicans in power have refused to learn from their mistakes."
Then former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search), whose scrappy campaign style has vaulted him to the front of the pack of Democratic presidential candidates, joined Davis in Los Angeles to say he was proud to back Davis despite the governor's record low poll ratings.
"I don't care," Dean said at a meeting of Asian-Pacific American political activists in Los Angeles. "My trademark is I say what I think, for better or worse. ... I'm pleased to be here, and I'm proud to be here."
As Davis and Dean criticized the Bush economic record, Peter Ueberroth (search), one of the Republican candidates to replace Davis in the recall election, unveiled his job-creation plan at an appearance in Orange County.
Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner and architect of the successful 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said his "California Works Again" (search) plan would give businesses cash or tax credits for every new job they create in the state. He would also appoint an unpaid "jobs czar" who would oversee the program.
The plan would rebate 50 percent of the personal income tax generated by each new employees back to the company, provided the jobs pay more than $30,000 a year and the company provides health benefits to the new employees.
That, Ueberroth said, would encourage businesses to provide health insurance to workers without "mandating it under oppressive job-killer legislation."
A bill that would require employers to offer health benefits to their employees is being debated in the California Senate and is supported by Democratic recall candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
Bustamante leads in most polls as the replacement for Davis if the governor loses his job in the Oct. 7 election. He addressed a labor union in San Francisco Saturday morning as Davis gave his radio speech, and Bustamante will have a rally with farmworkers in his hometown of Fresno Sunday.
The selection of Davis for the radio address affirms party support for him, Ann Crigler, director of Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.
"It's a sign that Democrats are supportive and Democrats are very important in California," she said.
She said the address itself may not be heard by many people — especially on a Saturday morning — but it elevates Davis' profile at a critical time.
Some are skeptical, like Mark Petracca, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who called the gesture a "little bit of a big deal" to give Davis a radio address "that virtually no one listens to."
"Is it an indication of confidence or is it an indication of panic?" Petracca asked. "It's possible that it's neither panic nor confidence. It's what the party can do. It's a freebie."
This is the second time this year that Davis has given the radio rebuttal to Bush. The last was in March when the governor called for more federal funding of homeland security programs now being paid for by state and local governments.
Davis' speech did not mention the recall campaign, but it did touch on his administration's efforts in California.
"In California, we're pushing hard to create new jobs now and to stimulate our economy," Davis said. "We're accelerating the flow of billions of dollars of bond money into our economy. We're building freeway and public transit projects one full year head of schedule, creating thousands of jobs now.
"In short, the nation's governors are doing more with less and still balancing their books."
Also Saturday, Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) made fund-raising stops in Sacramento and Sonoma County while picking up the endorsement of one of the state's major agriculture groups. Edwin Camp, chairman of the Western Growers Association, said Schwarzenegger "understands the importance of business in the economy of California. That it needs to be protected and cared for."
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger was criticized for boasting that he is not accepting campaign contributions from unions and Indian tribes. While campaigning last year for a proposition supporting before- and after-school programs, the action star accepted $530,000 from the California Teachers Association and $62,000 from three California Indian tribes.
"We were good folks to come to for Proposition 49," David Baron, in charge of governmental affairs for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, told the Los Angeles Times. "But now that he is running for election to a statewide office, we are taboo."
Walsh said that when Schwarzenegger took money for Proposition 49 he was not seeking an office from which he would have to negotiate with Indian tribes and public employee unions.
Schwarzenegger also said for the first time that he opposes Proposition 54, which would block public agencies from collecting and using many types of racial data. In a 45-minute interview with Spanish language station KUVS-TV on Saturday in Sacramento, the actor said the ballot measure would be "counterproductive" to collecting information on race in the health and education fields.
When contacted late Saturday, Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh confirmed the actor will vote against the initiative.