LOS ANGELES – California's state Supreme Court has cleared the last obstacle to a recall vote of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search), and the race to replace him is sure to become a political scrum.
"You're talking about a total free-for-all, an election where anything can happen, not a lot of time for strategic planning," said Democratic political consultant Darry Sragow. "It's a situation in which it's very difficult to choose a strategy because you're not talking about two candidates going head-to-head and someone's got to get a majority."
The California court refused to hear Davis supporters' allegations that the signatures needed to force a recall election were gained fraudulently. A Los Angeles court has agreed to take the case on Aug. 8 and the Supreme Court could be forced to take the case.
But as of now, the Oct. 7 recall election is going on as scheduled. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) did not say whether he will hold a replacement election that would coincide with Davis' ouster, but prospective candidates must file their intent to run in the next two weeks.
That means a host of Republican wannabe governors must make a decision nearly as difficult as solving California's $38 billion budget crisis, which forced Davis to a recall in the first place.
"I haven't made my mind up. As I said, I would support Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) in a second if he ran. I think he is sensational and if he doesn't run then I will have to make up my mind," said former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (search).
As for Bill Simon, the businessman who lost the general election to Davis just nine months ago, he has not made a decision publicly, but is stumping around the state gauging public support.
"Davis has a 20 percent approval rating, which means 80 percent think he's not doing a good job. We know one thing for sure, 80 percent of the state are not right wing," Simon said.
The latest name to tell Fox News that he is considering a run is former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp (search), who is shopping for homes in southern California. Calls are reportedly being made to measure potential support for Kemp.
Political commentator Arianna Huffington has also been named a potential replacement. Huffington supporters have started a Web site encouraging her candidacy.
For now, the only declared candidate is Rep. Darrell Issa (search), R-Calif., who bankrolled the recall drive with $1.7 million of his own money. State Sen. Tim McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, has said he is forming an exploratory committee to weigh his chances.
The Golden State is in a holding pattern with everyone waiting for Schwarzenegger to make a decision. He is supposed to make his intentions known next week, his publicist said.
California Democrats maintain that they are behind Davis 100 percent, and won't field a candidate, leaving Democrats to decide between choosing to keep Davis or voting for a "right wing" candidate.
But if Schwarzenegger enters the race, Democrats are preparing behind the scenes to have a big name take him on.
Fox News' Katie Cobb and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was originally published on July 25, 2003.