Santa Monica, California
Several staggered rows of grayish papier-mâum;ché headstones have sprouted on the grassy quad of Santa Monica College–the crown jewel of Southern California’s once envied and now battered community-college network. ANTHROPOLOGY R.I.P. reads one stone. Another marks the grave of some technical classes. And so on. Soon those faux grave markers placed by student and faculty protesters may mark the very real end of the political career of the nation’s most powerful Democratic governor, Gray Davis.
A mind-boggling $35 billion budget deficit is causing a cascade of slashing cuts not only in education but also in health and social services. Those cuts, in turn, are helping fuel a Republican-backed move to recall the governor before his second term is up in 2006. When the recall was first launched a few months back it seemed immediately to falter. Spearheaded by a hard-right faction of the state GOP, launched at a Sacramento rally attended by fringe groups branding the very centrist Davis a “socialist” and lacking any serious funding, the measure seemed doomed to the margins. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan’s refusal to fund the recall seemed to seal its fate.
Well…not so quick. On May 6, conservative California Congressman Darrell Issa, who has long harbored ambitions of higher office, announced he was going to actively support the measure. Considered to be worth upward of $200 million, Issa could easily come up with the estimated $2 million to $3 million it would take to make the recall a viable threat. As UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain told the Los Angeles Times, the recall effort has needed “a sugar daddy, and if Darrell Issa is willing to be the sugar daddy, that helps a lot.” Already this week recall organizers plan to present their first 100,000 signatures to state authorities. That’s the threshold necessary for California to officially track the rest of the signature gathering. Eventually some 900,000 signatures will have to be collected to get the measure on the ballot.
Can it happen here? You bet. Not only does Governor Davis suffer from a Yeltsin-like popularity rating of 27 percent according to a recent statewide poll, but he’s now started up doing the two things he does best: raising money and alienating voters. Davis is barred from running for a third term so he can’t use the new funds for another stab at the state governorship. His spokesman denied the new round of fundraising was in response to the recall but admitted that, indeed, the funds could eventually be used for that purpose. No kidding.