LOS ANGELES – On the eve of the first debate between Republican Bill Simon and Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, a last-minute skirmish erupted over the potential inclusion of the Green Party's nominee.
Simon has long pushed for the inclusion of the Green Party's Peter Camejo to force Davis to field questions from the right and the left in the first debate of their campaign. He invited Camejo to attend Monday's televised debate as his guest.
Organizers at the Los Angeles Times objected and said Camejo would not be allowed in, but Camejo told the paper Sunday he would come anyway. The Davis camp briefly threatened a boycott but then said the governor would attend as planned.
Simon also invited Ralph Nader, the Green Party presidential candidate from 2000 who was viewed by some as contributing to President Bush's victory by drawing crucial Democratic votes. It was unclear whether Nader would attend.
The lunchtime duel marks the first and possibly only time that the candidates would square off before the Nov. 5 election.
"This has been an election that has been so lacking in a discussion of the issues, and the voters have told us that's what they want the candidates to do,'' said Mark Baldassare, survey director for the Public Policy Institute of California.
Davis has struggled to recover from the political fallout of the state's energy crisis and Simon's campaign has suffered from a series of missteps and controversies surrounding his family business.