Davis takes on Bush, GOP in national radio address

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Gov. Gray Davis, fighting to keep his job in the recall election, was bolstered by the support of fellow Democrats Saturday as he gave the party's national radio address and appeared with one of the party's leading presidential candidates.

In the Democrats' response to President Bush's weekly radio speech, Davis sharply criticized the Bush administration's economic policies, saying Bush and "Republicans in power have refused to learn from their mistakes."

Two hours later, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose scrappy campaign style has vaulted him to the front of the pack of Democratic presidential candidates, joined Davis in Los Angeles to say he was proud to back Davis despite the governor's record low poll ratings.

"I don't care," Dean said at a meeting of Asian-Pacific American political activists in Los Angeles. "My trademark is I say what I think, for better or worse. ... I'm pleased to be here, and I'm proud to be here."

As Davis and Dean criticized the Bush economic record, Peter Ueberroth, one of the Republican candidates to replace Davis in the recall election, unveiled his job-creation plan at an appearance in Orange County.

Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner and architect of the successful 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said his "California Works Again" plan calls for tax incentives for businesses that create jobs in California. He would also appoint an unpaid "jobs czar" who would oversee the program.

Relaxed and upbeat, Ueberroth also apologized for what he called a lackluster performance during the campaign's first debate Wednesday. "No excuse. I didn't do well. But I understand how to play the game now."

For each new job created in California, Ueberroth said his plan would rebate 50 percent of the personal income tax generated by each new employee back to the company creating the job, if the jobs pay more than $30,000 a year and the company provides health benefits to the new employees.

That, Ueberroth said, would encourage businesses to provide health insurance to workers without "mandating it under oppressive job-killer legislation."

Such a mandate is at the heart of Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's budget plan, which calls for the passage of a bill being debated in the Senate that would require employers to offer health benefits to their employees.

Bustamante leads in most polls as the replacement for Davis if Davis loses his job in the Oct. 7 election. He addressed a labor union in San Francisco Saturday morning as Davis gave his radio speech, and Bustamante will have a rally with farmworkers in his hometown of Fresno on Sunday.

Davis' selection to give the rebuttal is a boost for his fight to stave off being recalled in the Oct. 7 special election, said Ann Crigler, a University of Southern California political scientist. Party leaders have been torn whether to put resources into the Davis campaign to fight off the recall or with the top Democratic replacement candidate, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

"There's a number of other people they could have asked to do this," she said.

While many people may hear the address, especially on a Saturday morning, she said, it elevates Davis' profile at a critical time. "It's a sign that Democrats are supportive and Democrats are very important in California."

Democratic governors chose Davis to give the response to Bush's weekly radio speech, and he used the chance to say the nation is in much the same position it was 12 years ago before Bill Clinton was elected president -- jobs were being lost and the federal government was running up the deficit.

"Once again key investments are not being made in education and infrastructure," Davis said. "To be blunt: there's a vacuum of national leadership that is sucking up American jobs at alarming rate."

Davis continued his attack on the Bush administration and took a few jabs at Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger later Saturday while appearing at a picnic of ironworkers in South El Monte in Southern California.

"I guarantee you if this actor becomes governor you are going to go backward," Davis said.

"Taking the gloves off now," said Greg DeLeon, a 37-year-old ironworker from Corona, as he listened to Davis.

DeLeon said Davis was being blamed for the power crisis and budget woes that were not his fault. "I like that he's for the working people. I don't think the recall is right. I think a lot of things were out of his control, and he just got caught in the middle."

Also on Saturday:

-- Schwarzenegger made fund-raising stops in Sacramento and Sonoma County while picking up the endorsement of two of the state's major agriculture groups. Edwin Camp, chairman of the Western Growers Association, said Schwarzenegger "understands the importance of business in the economy of California. That it needs to be protected and cared for."

The California Farm Bureau Federation also endorsed Schwarzenegger Saturday, swayed by the candidate's statements that agriculture was overburdened with environmental and labor regulations.

The state has to protect air quality, "but we cannot go overboard on regulations," especially when state and federal rules overlap, he said.

California's economic woes are "self-inflicted wounds," Schwarzenegger told the crowd of about 200 supporters in Sacramento. Elected officials should have weighed the state's economy before approving bills such as the family leave act and union-backed overtime regulations, the actor said.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger was requested not to attend a Mexican Independence Day parade in Los Angeles on Sunday. Bill Lomas, president of Pageantry Productions, said he was instructed by officials with the Comite Mexicano Civico Patriotico to revoke Schwarzenegger's parade permit, but was not given a specific reason. Davis is slated to be in the parade.


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