Schwarzenegger calls for unity; Democrats show it

LOS ANGELES -- Arnold Schwarzenegger called on Republicans to unite behind him for governor Saturday as Democrats staged their own dramatic show of party unity.

Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appeared together for the first time since Bustamante broke his pledge and entered the race to succeed Davis if he is recalled.

The surprise joint appearance came as the state Democratic Party voted, as expected, to endorse Bustamante's "No on recall, yes on Bustamante" strategy for the Oct. 7 recall election.

"I am not in competition with Gray Davis. I'm running against Arnold and Tom," Bustamante said in his speech to delegates, referring to Schwarzenegger and the other top Republican challenger, state Sen. Tom McClintock. "I believe that my name would be a positive option for Democrats on the second part of the ballot, and I thank you for embracing that option."

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, addressed a state Republican Party convention crowd deeply divided over whether to back the socially moderate actor or support the more conservative McClintock, who is in line with the party faithful on issues such as abortion and guns but is widely viewed as unlikely to beat Bustamante.

Schwarzenegger sought to reassure party activists that he was one of them, repeatedly describing himself as "a conservative," proclaiming, "I love the Republican Party," and invoking Ronald Reagan, the state's most beloved GOP figure.

"In 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a speech called 'A Time for Choosing.' That is what we face here today," Schwarzenegger told the crowd of more than 500. "We as Republicans have a choice to make: Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided? Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles or let the liberals win because we are split? Are we going to fight Davis and Bustamante or are we going to fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory."

Schwarzenegger's supporters are calling on McClintock to drop out to avoid splitting the vote and handing the election to Bustamante should voters remove Davis. Schwarzenegger never mentioned McClintock in his 20-minute speech.

The lawmaker from Northridge has shown no sign of budging and told a pro-recall rally Saturday afternoon in Long Beach that "I'm in this race to the finish line."

"I think if Schwarzenegger's campaign spent a fraction of the time studying the issues that they have been trying to muscle me out of the race, they'd be in much better shape today," McClintock told reporters after speaking at the rally.

McClintock was to give his own address to Republican convention delegates Saturday evening.

He is gaining on Schwarzenegger in the polls, although both trail Bustamante. In a new Los Angeles Times poll, Bustamante had support from 30 percent of likely voters, Schwarzenegger 25 percent and McClintock 18 percent.

At stake is the governor's seat if voters recall Davis. Some Republicans fear that having two top candidates on the ballot will split the GOP vote and hand the governorship to Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat among the 135 candidates on the recall ballot.

Some Republicans who like McClintock said they have to be realistic in choosing who to support.

Delegate Dottie Van Eckhardt, from Yuba City, called McClintock "a lovely man" but said she was supporting Schwarzenegger.

"I think McClintock probably is more experienced, but Arnold can win," she said.

The weekend GOP convention was seen as a watershed for Schwarzenegger, a chance for him to convince the party's most conservative members that he would support their principles if he becomes governor.

Republicans in California have a history of supporting candidates too conservative for the left-leaning state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 44 percent to 35 percent and control all statewide offices and both houses of the Legislature.

The Hollywood superstar entered the ballroom at the LAX Marriott to an extended standing ovation, and his speech was interrupted frequently by applause. Midway through his remarks, however, a couple of protesters appeared within yards of him and unfolded a large banner reading, "Sexual misconduct is not a family value." They were quickly hustled off by security officials.

Schwarzenegger continued his speech. He has been nagged during his campaign by old magazine interviews in which he boasted about his sexual exploits and referred to women as sexual objects.

Across town, Democrats staged a piece of political theater dramatic enough to rival Schwarzenegger's Hollywood spotlight.

Before voting on endorsing the "No on recall, yes on Bustamante" approach, the crowd was to hear separately from Davis and Bustamante. The frosty relationship between the governor and lieutenant governor soured even further when Bustamante flouted party strategy and broke his own pledge by entering the recall race.

As Davis spoke, Bustamante suddenly appeared on stage. The stunned audience of about 1,000 party members shot to their feet and erupted in applause. Davis and Bustamante shook hands.

"People wanted to see us stand together, so here we are," Davis said.

The vote for Bustamante's candidacy was expected, with 85 percent of more than 600 Democratic delegates voting to endorse him on the special election ballot's second question. The rest voted for no endorsement.

The party had voted in March to oppose the recall election.

Several prominent Democrats already had endorsed Bustamante's presence on the second part of the ballot as a logical "safety net" if Davis loses the recall. But in recent campaign appearances, Bustamante has de-emphasized the "no on recall" message to focus on his own candidacy, angering some labor leaders and other core Democratic supporters.

Bustamante's appearance with Davis seemed to be an attempt to heal any rift within the party.

Davis' speech signaled a new shift in his campaign strategy. After first focusing on casting the recall as a Republican power-grab, Davis has begun to campaign more directly against Schwarzenegger and McClintock.

"Over the past few weeks, I have seen Republican candidates run down this great state for their own partisan advantage. Tom McClintock and Arnold Schwarzenegger have distorted the facts, exaggerated our problems and deceived the public," Davis told the crowd. "But I have news for them: Your campaign of distortion and deceit stops right here."

"To borrow a phrase from a California Republican president, 'Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Schwarzenegger."' Davis said.


Associated Press Writer Beth Fouhy contributed to this report.


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