SAN FRANCISCO – The California recall candidates kept plugging away Tuesday as the secretary of state debated whether to appeal the federal court decision to postpone the election from its scheduled Oct. 7 date.
Democratic Gov. Gray Davis continued to draw national Democrats to his tour, appearing Tuesday with presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham of Florida and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Republican front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Sen. Tom McClintock (search) were meeting Tuesday with millionaire businessman Peter Ueberroth (search), who dropped out of the running last week and said he would endorse the candidate with the best plan for creating jobs.
"I thought I was running a sprint, and it looks like I may have to run a marathon," said Steve Smith, an adviser to Gov. Gray Davis, the target of the recall. "And I don't even like running that much."
A three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the recall must be postponed so six counties could replace punch-card ballot machines, which they said would disenfranchise voters in those counties.
They endorsed the American Civil Liberties Union (search) suggestion to hold the new elections in March 2004, when local mayoral elections and the state primary are taking place.
The punch card machines are supposed to be replaced by January 2004.
The court ruled the punch-card machines, used in the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida as well as last year's gubernatorial and state election in California, are more prone to error than other machines.
The six counties include the state's most populous, Los Angeles, as well as Sacramento and San Diego counties. Altogether they contained 44 percent of California's registered voters during the 2000 election.
Secretary of State Kevin Shelley was expected to announce late Tuesday whether he would take the case either to the U.S. Supreme Court or back to the full nine-judge bench at the 9th Circuit.
One of the groups behind the effort to yank Davis from office planned to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the recall date Oct. 7. The circuit court's decision was stayed for a week to allow for such appeals.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only major Democrat vying to succeed Davis if he is recalled, and Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to continue campaigning as the courts decide when to hold the election.
"With this ruling, you risk disenfranchising voters. Does this serve the interests of democracy or the general public?" asked Sean Walsh, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger.
Independent candidate Arianna Huffington praised the decision, calling voter disenfranchisement "the dirty little secret of American politics."
McClintock called it an "outrageous decision" that is the "laughingstock" of the federal judiciary because it is the nation's most-reversed federal appeals court.
With only 22 days left before the scheduled election, observers have said that the delay could benefit Davis, who has started to recover some of his popularity.
More Democrats are more likely to go to the polls in March for the presidential primary, helping to buoy his support.
On the flip side, McClintock could suffer most from a delay, since it would stop his recently increasing momentum.
"The political impact of the ruling is the law of unintended consequences," said Republican analyst Allan Hoffenblum. "It could mandate opening up the filing process again, so we'll have more candidates. People who dropped out could drop back in. Tom McClintock would be seriously impacted."
Voters reacted with mixed feelings about the decision.
"I don't like things when they are rushed. It's ridiculous, the wide field of candidates, the short election," said Vana Meydag, 50, of Whittier. "Maybe postponing is a good thing to give people time to reflect on what's going on."
Scott Fox, 47, of San Diego, was insulted. "I think the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just told us that the last 25 years of elections are inadequate to support the election of any candidates," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.