California Certifies Contenders for Recall Ballot

Voters will have 135 candidates to choose from to replace Gov. Gray Davis (search) in an unprecedented California recall election, the secretary of state's office said Wednesday.

That's a few more than half who actually applied to get on the ballot. Of the 247 would-be governors who had submitted papers to run in the Oct. 7 special election, 112 were disqualified because of incomplete paperwork, state officials said.

The number of candidates likely surpasses any previous number of gubernatorial candidates in one election, which would probably be fewer than a dozen, said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley (search).

"There's nothing that comes close," Cain said. "I think it's fair to say it's a record, and probably a national record."

The final list of candidates includes the well-known, the unknown and the offbeat, including a discount cigarette retailer, a used car salesman, a golf pro and a sumo wrestler.

Better-known candidates include Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante; commentator Arianna Huffington, an independent; and four Republicans: businessman Bill Simon, who lost the governor's race to Davis in November, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and state Sen. Tom McClintock.

Candidates include 50 Democrats, 42 Republicans and 32 independents. There also were four Green Party members, three Libertarians, two Natural Law Party members, and one each from the American Independent and Peace and Freedom parties.

Among those that tried to get on the ballot and failed were Donald A. Novello, aka Father Guido Sarducci of "Saturday Night Live" fame, and Mathilda Karel Spak, who at 100 would have been the oldest candidate.

"I'm not going to worry about it," Spak said.

With 54 days until the election, some of the expected front-runners were plotting strategy, making appearances and taking shots at the competition.

Schwarzenegger, who gave his campaign $1 million Tuesday, named billionaire investor Warren Buffett as a senior financial and economic adviser Wednesday, the latest in a number of strategic personnel moves by the actor's campaign.

Huffington was facing criticism for applying tax law to her personal finances. The Los Angeles Times reported that she paid no individual state taxes for the past two years and only $771 into Social Security taxes. Huffington was exempt from paying taxes after losing more than $250,000 in a private company she owns.

Huffington has said she will campaign with Green Party candidate Peter Camejo to push a progressive agenda. Camejo said he would encourage Green Party members to vote for Huffington if she pulls ahead of him before Oct. 7. Huffington said she would consider a similar move "if Peter somehow catches fire."

For his part, Davis appeared with abortion-rights activists in San Francisco to announce his support for five legislative bills that would expand sex education for teenagers and improve access to emergency contraception.

Counties are also in the process of thinking up ways to pay for the costs and logistics of conducting a special election.

Estimates on the cost of the recall started at $30 million, but have increased to as much as $67 million. Elections officials throughout the state said it could go higher because of the number of candidates.

Potential costs to California's 58 counties range from $50,000 in rural Plumas County to $13 million in Los Angeles County.

"Our next task is to turn our attention to the mechanics of Oct. 7, so that we can work on the details of a smooth Election Day operation," Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said in a statement.

Deficit-strapped counties are tapping emergency reserves, using money budgeted for the March primary and hoping the state makes good on its previous history of paying for special elections. The higher election costs are hitting counties during a budget crisis that has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts.

Clerk Stephen Weir said Contra Costa is facing election costs that may pass $2 million.

"That's a lot of immunization shots or meals or services to people," Weir said.

On Thursday, the California Broadcasters Association discussed how they will hold a 90-minute debate for voters to hear from the candidates. The association planned to announce its criteria for selecting candidates and the proposed format aimed at giving "real Californians" a chance to ask questions.

And in another attempt to give the candidates face time, as well as boost the kingmaker status of comedian Jay Leno, on whose show Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy, "The Tonight Show" has invited all 135 candidates to appear in the audience next month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.