One week to Oct 7:


The envelope please

From the Publisher

It’s hard to believe that in one week we all go to the polls to decide Yea or Nay on our governor, and, perhaps, to choose a replacement. I wish I could give you some real insider stuff, but the truth is that the insiders don’t know any more than the outsiders at this point. Two horseraces are much easier to predict. Multi-horseraces are nearly impossible to predict, and what we’re going through now is unprecedented.

It has certainly begun to look like Gray Davis will be recalled. Probably not by the margins the latest CNN poll seems to indicate, but the trend definitely is there. It’s strange. He had begun to pick up some momentum before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in and threatened to delay the election. Up until then, Davis had a chance to survive. Then the court decision threw us into a week of uncertainty. We were distracted, and when the campaign started up again with two weeks to go, Davis’s momentum was gone, vanished somewhere into the ether. I suspect it’s probably too late to be recaptured.

Equally as strange was the Cruz Bustamante / Arnold Schwarzenegger brush up. Until the debate, they were neck-and-neck, perhaps Busta-

mante was ever so slightly ahead. Both had moved to their respective bases and were stuck. People who watched the debate came away, I thought, relatively unchanged. No one had messed up big time, no one had been a clear winner, but sometimes it takes a couple of days for the impact to sink in, and this was no exception. In the debate, Bustamante appeared sort of prissy and gained no ground, while Schwarzenegger and Arianna Huffington were toe-to-toe, and it got nasty.

Generally, it’s strategically not a good idea for a male candidate to get into a war of words with a female candidate. Perhaps if Huffington was softer and less obviously trying to bait him, it might have hurt Schwarzenegger. But Huffington is one tough cookie; while beloved by some, she’s hated by a whole bunch of others. I suspect when Schwarzenegger came back at her equally as nasty, there were many potential voters, both male and female, who were delighted. I believe she was generally perceived as being tougher than Bustamante. When Schwarzenegger stood up to her, it worked for him because you had a sense of him as a person, though I will admit not the most elegant person. But these are difficult times and Schwarzenegger really had to show that he was, in part, the character he usually portrays. I think he did and that, I believe, caused him to gain ground. I suspect that while the debate was going on his handlers damn near had a heart attack. These things can never be totally programmed. They try, but there is always that wild card element and you’re never sure how it will finally play.

So at the risk of having a lot of egg on my face next week, I’m betting that Davis is recalled and Schwarzenegger is our next governor.

What happens after that is really interesting. Apparently the secretary of state has 28 days or so to certify the election. After that it’s anybody’s guess. Normally, there is a three-month transition, with a transition team and an orderly handover. I’m guessing there is going to be a lot of bad feeling after this, especially if Davis is recalled. The Democrats and Republicans are going to be at each other’s throats immediately. It’s not going to be orderly, and it certainly is not going to be friendly.

A new governor has a slew of appointments to make. Some have to be consented to by the state Senate, which is Democrat-controlled. This body will probably drag its feet on everything, making it difficult for a new person to govern.

For example, take the California Coastal Commission. Does the governor just fire the previous governor’s four appointments? What happens in the interim? Does the new governor have any say about the old governor’s budget for the Coastal Commission? Can a new governor refuse to spend certain money in the budget? Does the old administration have to cooperate in any way? Suppose they don’t give them the passwords on the computers. It can really get petty if there is a lot of ill will. I can see the state police being called in to try to referee what could be some very nasty confrontations. Ultimately, with or without help, there will be a new administration in place, and then the real problems begin.

If Schwarzenegger gets in, he’s immediately got a pot overflowing with those problems like the deficit and an opposition party that is steaming and probably going to try and do anything it can to make sure he fails.

Of course, if Davis isn’t recalled or Schwarzenegger doesn’t win, well then, “Never mind.”