SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gray Davis (search) said in an interview broadcast Monday that the effort to recall him was an insult to those who voted last year.
"I don't like this but I am trying to suppress those negative feelings and channel my energies into doing something positive for the people I work for, the people of this great state," Davis said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show.
Also Monday, Bill Simon (search), one of the Republicans challenging him, cited his vision for the future and promised to be "the candidate of ideas."
And in New York, actor and GOP hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) appeared at a gathering related to his effort to foster after-school programs, joking to the crowd that the large number of journalists present were "all there for you."
Californians will vote Oct. 7 in the nation's first gubernatorial recall election in 82 years. The race has attracted as many as 193 candidates, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (search), political commentator Arianna Huffington (search), and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search), a Democrat who says he opposes the recall but wants to be on the ballot as an alternative in case it passes.
Simon, the businessman who lost to Davis in the election last year, cited his vision for the state, including smaller government and better schools. He told NBC he was stressing ideas and was confident "that our people are once again going to rally around me." He also said he was more conservative on social issues than Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican.
Davis said he has "gotten the message. I understand a lot of people signed a recall." But he also called it "an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November and decided I should be governor." (Of nearly 8 million people voting in California's election, Davis received around 3.5 million votes, Simon got nearly 3.2 million, and the rest of the voters chose other candidates or left the gubernatorial part of the ballot blank.)
The governor also said former President Clinton had given him advice and he hoped that he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would campaign for him. "They're very well thought of in California," Davis said.
Bustamante stressed Monday he was against the recall but said as lieutenant governor, he was an obvious choice to become governor if Davis is removed. "I think I'm in the perfect position ... to take over if there's any kind of problem," he told NBC.
With close to 200 candidates signed up to run, the ballot itself could be a real page-turner. On Monday, the secretary of state was scheduled to hold a random drawing to determine the order in which candidates' names will appear.
A lottery-style drawing of canisters will determine an initial random alphabetical order. If "U" is drawn first then Ueberroth may be listed near the top in District 1. If "C" is drawn second, then all the candidates whose name begins with "C" rank high. And so on through the alphabet.
"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?"
For additional fairness, the listing of names on the ballot will be rotated across the state's 80 Assembly districts. The candidate at the top of the ballot in District 1 would go to the end of the ballot in District 2 so that every letter of the alphabet gets the top position somewhere in the state.
The final list of names certified for the ballot is due to be released Wednesday.
Davis will lose if he gets less than 50 percent. With so many challengers on the ballot, the eventual winner could need only a fraction of the vote to become governor.
There was little campaigning Sunday. In one of the few choreographed media events, Schwarzenegger's campaign let reporters view — but not copy — some of his past tax returns. They showed 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, especially the economy. Coming after a bitter budget battle in the Legislature, the recall election has tarnished the state's already battered image with investors.
One hint at Schwarzenegger's political leanings came Sunday when his campaign confirmed that he voted in 1994 for Proposition 187, the divisive ballot measure that denied social services to illegal immigrants, turning many Hispanics against the California Republican Party.
Bustamante told NBC the immigrant community would resent the "very cynical strategy" of blaming state problems on immigrants.
Huffington has temporarily given up her syndicated column and radio talk show, called "Left, Right & Center," while she runs. Huffington, 53, said she didn't want to be perceived as using either one as an election forum.