Poll shows growing support for recall of Calif. governor

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ A statewide poll released Friday showed momentum building for the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, and his most imposing challenger's billionaire adviser said Californians' property taxes are too low.

The nonpartisan Field Poll found that 58 percent of likely California voters want Davis out of office, up from 51 percent last month. Fully 68 percent said they believe Davis will be recalled in the Oct. 7 special election.

The survey results were almost uniformly bad news for the embattled Davis. His approval rating has plummeted to an all-time low, with just 22 percent of voters saying they like the job he is doing as governor.

While a majority of Democrats, self-described liberals and voters from the San Francisco Bay area still say they oppose the recall, support for the measure now extends across almost all age groups, education levels, ethnic groups and regions of the state, poll results show.

``Movement is always the most significant element of a poll like this, and we are seeing continued movement toward the recall,'' said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. ``And attitudes toward the recall are very firm, since people have come to their judgments of Davis over a long period of time.''

Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared to be the strongest challenger in recent polls, despite offering few details about his stances on issues.

Billionaire Warren Buffett, senior economic adviser to Schwarzenegger, gave voters a possible glimpse on one stance in Friday's Wall Street Journal, saying in an interview that California's property taxes are too low.

That suggestion is likely to draw fire because the 1978 proposition that limited the taxes is considered sacrosanct by voters, but economists have said one reason for the state's record $38 billion deficit was that it is too reliant on income taxes that can fluctuate greatly.

Meanwhile, the massive blackout that struck the northeastern United States and portions of Canada served as a reminder of the 2000-2001 energy crisis that left portions of California in the dark and forced the state to buy power at exorbitant prices.

Davis told CNN's ``Larry King Live'' on Thursday that the power crisis may return as an issue in the special election.

``People may try and go back and second-guess what we did, but I would like to know what they would do when Enron had manipulated the market,'' Davis said. ``We had a problem of not enough capacity plus the energy companies were ripping us off big time.''

Recall supporters have knocked Davis' handling of the crisis and blamed him for the state's deficit.

Independent candidate Arianna Huffington has criticized Schwarzenegger for meeting with former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay in May 2001 in Beverly Hills. The Los Angeles Times reported at the time that Lay gave Schwarzenegger and other business and political leaders a four-page plan detailing his solution to California's energy crisis.

``I don't remember the meeting,'' Schwarzenegger said Thursday.

The Field Poll said 65 percent of voters who support the recall said they believe electing a new governor would move California in a new direction. But only 40 percent said recalling Davis would help solve the state's budget problems.

Peter Ragone, director of communications for Californians Against the Costly Recall, discounted the survey and said it won't affect his group's strategy.

``We're going to continue to talk to people about the fact that the recall is not a way to solve the state's problems,'' Ragone said.

The poll, based on telephone interviews with 448 likely voters, was conducted August 10-13 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

In other campaign developments, Schwarzenegger briefly met with reporters Thursday to announce that another high-profile adviser was joining his campaign. Aides promised the actor would eventually tell voters where he stands on the issues.

In the former bodybuilder's first exchange with reporters since filing candidacy papers last week, Schwarzenegger said George P. Shultz, secretary of state during the first Bush administration, would join Buffett on his campaign's economic team.

Schwarzenegger's growing campaign staff is going Hollywood with another possible adviser, actor Rob Lowe, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. The longtime Democratic activist and former ``West Wing'' star is a friend of Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver.

Citing unnamed sources close to the campaign, the Times reported the couple had asked Lowe to take an as-yet-undefined senior campaign position.

Bonnie Reiss, a campaign strategist, told the newspaper, ``I've met with Rob and I will be working with him.'' A Lowe spokesman was unavailable for comment.

In the Oct. 7 recall election, voters will decide whether Davis should be ousted and then pick who should replace him from a field of 135 candidates. Debates among the top contenders have been scheduled for Sept. 9 and 17.

Also on the ballot is Proposition 54, which would ban the state from collecting racial data. A Sacramento County judge turned down a request Thursday from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund to postpone a vote on the measure until March.