"I'm a governor, not a judge. I've taken an oath to uphold all the laws of the state, no matter how much I may disagree with those laws."- Gray Davis, when asked about Proposition 187 on April 15, 1999.
Thursday, October 21, 1999
Recall of Davis vowed
By Dorothy Korber, Sacramento Bureau -- [Links, photos added by AmericanPatrol.com]
SACRAMENTO - Furious over the governor's handling of Proposition 187, proponents of the anti-illegal immigrant initiative aim to enlist gun owners and Christian conservatives in their uphill battle to oust Gray Davis.
The hope is that anger over gun control and gay rights will galvanize opposition to Davis, perhaps leading to the first successful recall of a governor in California history. Of 31 attempts since 1936, not one effort even qualified for the ballot.
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Such statistics don't cow David Hunter of Long Beach, a foot soldier in the effort to unseat the governor.
"Can one elected official thwart the will of the people?" demanded retiree Hunter, who circulates the recall petition. "Davis better take this way serious, because we're going to run him off!"
Recall leaders began circulating petitions in mid-September. Since then, they say, they've collected 100,000 of the 1 million validated signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Their official deadline is Feb. 23, but their goal is to have the petitions certified by Dec. 7 - which would place the issue before the voters in the March presidential primary.
"Yes, this is a monumental task," said Barbara Coe, an author of Proposition 187 and head of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. She's spearheading the recall effort in Orange County. "This is tyranny we're talking about. Gov. Davis repeatedly stated that he would uphold the will of the people - he betrayed that commitment.
"But win, lose or draw, we'll show we won't just roll over and play dead. Our reaching out to the gun people and to the churches has a dual benefit, because it brings more people together."
Prop. 187 dispute
Proposition 187, passed by 59 percent of California voters in 1994, bars illegal immigrants from public education, social services and non-emergency health care. The measure, however, was blocked by legal action almost from the moment of passage.
Davis, an outspoken opponent of the initiative, incensed the measure's backers when he refused to appeal court rulings that found the proposition unconstitutional. Instead, Davis accepted a settlement mediated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals - a settlement that effectively scuttled the parts of 187 not made redundant by federal law.
The Davis recall effort was further inflamed by the governor's close relationship with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, said Glenn Spencer, president of Voice of Citizens Together, an anti-immigration group based in the San Fernando Valley.
A principal author of Proposition 187, the 62-year-old Spencer is also the founder of the Recall Davis Committee, which has a Sherman Oaks address.
187 author outraged
"Here we have a ballot measure passed by 59 percent of the people - and Davis pulled this mediation trick and outright kills it," Spencer said. "We cannot let this stand. Then the governor makes a deal with Mexico. Davis thinks he can say and do anything he wants. When are we outraged? When?" Outraged or not, Spencer acknowledges that it takes money to gather a million signatures. That's one reason he's turning to gun advocates and conservative churches to help achieve his mission.
"We're on a shoestring budget at the moment," Spencer said. "All of our donations are small; this is just a grass-roots effort, $20 at a time. We've heard promises, but we've seen no money yet from the National Rifle Association."
Experienced signature gatherers estimate that it costs about $1 per name for this kind of petition drive.
Spencer figures he needs to pull in 7,500 signatures a day to make the December goal. So far, he said, the daily average runs between 4,500 and 5,000 signatures.
"We have the entire database of Los Angeles area voters on our computers, so we can verify signatures as we go," he said. "We're up on the Internet at www.recalldavis.com. We have the machinery in place. Now we have to get the steam up and the wheels rolling."
Davis is out of the country on a foreign trade mission. A spokeswoman, asked about the recall, noted that the governor won by a 20-point landslide less than a year ago.
"The main provisions of 187 are already enacted under federal law, and most benefits are denied illegal residents," said Deputy Press Secretary Hilary McLean. "The governor found the best course for getting past this very divisive issue. The state can now move forward and, as he said in his inaugural address, put the era of wedge issues behind us."
Moving any recall from rhetoric to reality may be an impossible dream, judging from past experience and future obstacles. Political scientist Mark Petracca of the University of California - Irvine doubts if Spencer and Coe can pull it off.
"Threatening a recall is easy," Petracca said. "After that, the difficulties are manifest. There's the problem of devising an acceptable petition. Then, getting enough validated signatures is a big, big hurdle. The time frame is very short. And, if you do succeed in getting on the ballot, then you have a campaign to run.
"If these people want to spend their time at this, fine. But the truth is their prospects of success are abysmally low."
Meanwhile, they may find it difficult to round up help from their conservative brethren. The California NRA hasn't expressed a whisper of official support, said Earle L. Stephen, communications chair for the association's Long Beach area members' council. "I'd sign the petition, but that's because my sympathies lie with people who are upset about what happened to 187," Stephen said.
As far as enlisting conservative Christians, the Rev. Lou Sheldon said his Traditional Values Coalition is too busy working for passage of the California Protection of Marriage Initiative - banning gay marriages - to devote time to the Davis recall.
"There is no question, however, that Gov. Davis has presented himself not as a moderate but as a radical - and the Christian community is deeply offended and may very well sign these recall petitions," Sheldon said. "In the end, of course, a lot will depend on the amount of money the recall backers can raise. I don't know if any of the financial heavy hitters will come forward for this."
Though he didn't mention it, Sheldon has another consideration. His coalition embraces strong new support from Latino Protestants - people who oppose gay marriage but might be disaffected by a show of support for 187.
Spencer is willing to take all the help he can get.
"I believe in my heart that our nation is at risk from illegal immigration," he said. "If this recall fails - imagine what legislation Davis will sign next year."