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Could Arianna Huffington Become Governor of California?

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With the gubernatorial recall vote two months away, Democracy Now! speaks with author Arianna Huffington on her potential candidacy; Green Party candidate Peter Camejo on Gov. Gray Davis and the Enron connection; and Ted Costa, the anti-tax advocate who started the recall initiative.

The clock is ticking towards California?s first recall gubernatorial election.

October 7th has been set as the election date and campaigns promise to be short, expensive and fierce. There is not a lot of time for strategic planning.

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced last week more than 1.3 million valid signatures on petitions to oust Davis from office. The number of signatures is far more than needed to qualify for the recall.

The Oct. 7th ballot will give voters two choices. First, they can vote ?yes? or ?no? on whether to recall Davis. Then they can choose a successor listed on the same ballot.

If a majority votes “yes” on the recall, the next governor of California will be the one who gets the most votes, not necessarily the majority–making the election a total free-for-all.

To complicate matters further, three separate lawsuits are now challenging the way the recall vote is held.

Either way, candidates hoping to replace Gov. Gray Davis have only until Aug. 9th to get into the race.

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa is the only declared major-party candidate so far. He bankrolled the recall drive with $1.7 million of his own money. Issa and other Republican forces have accused Davis of steering California into a $38 billion deficit.

The state?s Democratic officeholders have closed ranks behind Davis and say they will not run. However, Davis? approval rating have fallen to around 20 percent. He has been campaigning against the recall for moths on the basis of its cost, now put at $35 million.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is ?leaning against running? but has made no final decision, a senior adviser said yesterday.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan has said he will look hard at running if Schwarzenegger does not.

Also considering are GOP businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in November; state Sen. Tom McClintock; and former congressman Michael Huffington.

  • * Ted Costa*, an anti-tax activist who started the recall initiative. He is CEO of People?s Advocate.
  • * Peter Camejo*, he won 5 percent of the vote as the Green Party candidate for governor in 2002 and has announced his intention to run in this election.
  • * Arianna Huffington*, columnist and political pundit. She is the author of Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America. A grassroots campaign based in San Francisco called Run Arianna Run! is working to draft her into the race for governor. She has not declared candidacy.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined today by two other possible candidates as well as the man who was in charge of the recall initiative. We’re joined by Peter Camejo who won 5% of the vote as the green party candidate for Governor in 2002. He’s announced his intention to run in this election. Arianna Huffington is a columnist and an author. Her latest book is Pigs at the Trough — How Corporate Greed and Corruption are Undermining America. There’s a grassroots campaign based in San Francisco called “Run Arianna Run,” which is working to draft her into the race for Governor. She’s not yet declared her candidacy. And Ted Costa, an anti-tax activist who started the recall initiative. He’s C.E.O. of “People’s Advocate.” Let’s begin with Ted Costa. Why did you push this recall? It is unprecedented.

TED COSTA: Well, you know, government at all levels in the United States of America gets its authority from the consent of the governed. Without the consent of the people, government has nothing whatsoever. And what’s happening in California is the people do not consent to the current government that we have in California at the state level.

AMY GOODMAN: Arianna Huffington, your response to the recall initiative.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well I completely disagree with what Ted said. There’s a process by which in 2006, Californians who do not consent to Gray Davis could throw him out. In that case he would not be on the ballot in 2006. But he was just elected fair and square, eight months ago—8 1/2 months ago — you know let me just say that I can spend the next hour telling you all the things wrong with Gray Davis and his policies. I think it’s ludicrous that he is now presenting himself as a progressive politician just to save his skin. But nevertheless, I’m opposed to the idea of buying signatures because after all, despite Davis’ law approval ratings and despite the feeling that he’s totally owned by special interests, had it not been for Darrell Issa bankrolling this campaign to the tune of $1,200,000, maybe more, these signatures would not have been collected. They’re collected often by people who are not even Californians who have been brought in from other states. So there are a lot of very sleazy elements to this recall. But my point of view is that the democratic strategy of just circling the wagon around Davis and not fielding any major Democrats is very dangerous. It’s playing Russian roulette with the state, at the time when the last thing California can afford is a Republican Governor who will cut tax, cut even more spending programs, and basically perpetuate the disastrous policies of Pete Wilson which, frankly, were largely followed through by Gray Davis in many, many instances — including Prop 21 that has filled our jails, including the same drug wars that we’re continuing to pursue with vigor. And the fact that we have major tax sheltering of business income and profits that if it had …[unclear] would have meant we don’t have to cut so many services.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you run for governor?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I’m seriously looking at it. I’m meeting with a lot of community leaders. The activists that you mentioned in San Francisco led by Van Jones of the Ella Baker center. They came and met with me over the weekend. I’m seriously looking at it. I definitely would not want to see a field that did not include a progressive alternative to a Republican takeover of the state.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Camejo, you’re the Green Party candidate for governor. You already ran against Gray Davis. You’re going to do it again this time on the recall ballot?

PETER CAMEJO: Well, yes, in the July 16 poll taken, I’m right now in first place in the Bay Area among liberals and among independents in California. That’s the first time that any third party candidate in any category has gone into first place among the people, and as you may know, this is enormous for the Green Party. We’ve been building the party for 10 years and we have a shot here at making an enormous impact. The biggest problem that we have in California is that we tax the poor. The poor is 20% and the tax is 11.3%. The rich is 1% and is taxed at 7.2%. That is, we have totally regressive state and local taxes in California, that the Democrats and the Republicans have both done. We had an enormous income for the state. Unparalleled in the history of California while Davis was in office. A $30 billion surplus came in above the amount that’s necessary to keep the budget balanced. He lost all $30 billion, plus an additional $30 billion, plus he lost us $30 billion in the energy crisis. The people in California are completely and totally fed up with him. And I’m 100% for recalling him. I think the right of the people to take out any politician —- this is not an impeachment. An impeachment means you violated the law, you did something, you tried—-This is the will of the people. Every poll shows that Davis will be removed. And, in fact, when you go from likely voters to registered voters — which means more poor people, more people of color, the polls get worse for Davis. They’re 54% to 39% among registered voters to throw him out. I think it’s a mistake to defend him in any way, shape, or form. Or to oppose this recall. It doesn’t matter that the Republicans started it, it reflects the will of the people of California, therefore, I completely support the recall.

AMY GOODMAN: Arianna Huffington, might you run against your ex-husband Michael Huffington?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: No. You know what, Amy, I’m first of all a mother. And we have two daughters together, who are 12 and 14, and I would never put my children through this. So if my ex-husband decides to go ahead and run, that would preclude my run. Not for any other reason, but you can imagine what it would be like for children to have their parents running in the same race.

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of Enron, which you take on in your book, Pigs in the Trough, you have the energy crisis, which is very much held against Gray Davis. You have Enron a good deal behind that energy crisis, and all the fraud that it represents. Is —- do you have—-first the leading Republicans in this country who helped bring the President to office like Ken Lay who is one of his pioneers, first going at Gray Davis in one way, and then now with this recall in another?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, I would say that Enron and the energy crisis is a whole other problem which shows both just the power of these companies in the state, but also the fact that the Bush administration has really barely begun to do anything to hold them accountable. Both in the energy crisis and in a lot of other areas. So that’s one of the problems, frankly, with Gray Davis. He hasn’t really taken this to the people. I mean there’s so much that can only be done if the public is outraged. I mean, as you know, with a deadlocked legislature, with an administration in Washington that basically is there to protect the interests of its major donors. Only when the public is outraged do we see change. You remember, the public got outraged, the administration got rid of Harvey Pete at the F.C.C. The public got outraged. Henry Kissinger had to resign as the potential chairman of the 9/11 Committee. There’s a string of successes when the public is mobilized and outraged. And that’s why I think we need a leader in California who has the capacity to take these issues to the public and outrage them. Because our system is too broken to function in any other way at the moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Ted Costa who started the recall initiative. If the Lieutenant Governor Bustamante, who set the date—if Gray Davis were to resign, even the day before the recall vote, would that automatically make Bustamante governor, and then invalidate the whole recall vote because it’s not a recall vote for Bustamante as Governor?

TED COSTA: No, once the signature has been certified, people are guaranteed an election. What you would have is Cruz Bustamante would be the temporary governor, until such a time as there would be an election. And you should also know that we have already two million signatures. By September 1, we will have 2.4 million. 900,000 were paid signatures and we have more than enough signatures without Darrell Issa’s paid signatures to qualify this thing. And the notion that we heard earlier is just a totally erroneous notion that people come from outside. It was rejected by the Superior court, it was rejected by the Court of Appeals, it was rejected by the Supreme Court. Because we found all of those signatures and we never turned them in. Arianna Huffington, stop lying to people about this.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: But you did have people who came from out of town. You may not have used the signatures they provided you with, but they were people who were paid by —-—

TED COSTA: People don’t have the right to travel in this country? Is that what you’re saying? People don’t have the right to travel?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is these were not even Californians collecting the signatures and they were doing it for the money. And I frankly think that this is one change that should happen. The initiative system was originally intended to be a populist expression. And the minute you are able to hire people, to pay people to collect signatures, it becomes another tool of special interests. And, sure, sometimes it can also be the expression of the people. But it’s become too blunt an instrument. And I would definitely advocate that we go back to the original intent and only be able to collect signatures if volunteers and citizens and people who are concerned about an issue are willing to go out and take the time and collect the signatures.

TED COSTA: I agree with that concept. It’s a very good concept. However, the United States Supreme Court will not allow us to outlaw professional signature gathers.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Camejo, will you run if Arianna Huffington runs?


AMY GOODMAN: Peter Camejo, will you run if—?

PETER CAMEJO: I’m already running and I’m urging Arianna Huffington to enter the race and I’m offering to — the Green Party, we’re going to offer to form a block with her. And as we approach the end of the election, if it’s possible for us to win by unifying our forces, we’ll take whatever steps are necessary. But I just want to add one thing. Unions in California pay for signatures. Everybody pays for signatures. This is the way people go out, and they get paid very, very little. The point is not whether they get paid or not. The point is what is the will of the people of California. And Davis, by the way, Davis — let me just throw this in — he loved Kenneth Lay. He used Kenneth Lay as his main advisor on what to do on the energy crisis. And he turned around and wrote a check for $43 billion to all of these corporations that were stealing and destroying California. So, you’ve got to understand something — the difference between Davis and the Republicans is that Davis calls himself a Democrat. The point is we need someone like Arianna Huffington who’s willing to fight for the rights of the people and to represent the mass of the people of California — their interests, not for special interests and money interests. That’s why I’m very happy to hear her considering this and I want to really encourage her to enter that. We differ a little bit here about the recall. But I absolutely believe that the people of California are looking for alternatives.

AMY GOODMAN: So although you’re encouraging her to run, you would not pull out if she does?

PETER CAMEJO: We don’t know if she’s going to run to begin with. And secondly, the Green Party’s base now is primarily on people of color. And we need to have me in this campaign as a Latino, I’ll be the only person that is not a European American even though the population of California is a majority non-European American. If we’re going mobilize the African-Americans, Latinos, and the entire community that needs for us to be able to have a progressive win, I have to be in this campaign, the Green Party has to be in this campaign. We have thousands and thousands of activists throughout California. We’ve built an organization for ten years. And because Arianna Huffing ton enters, that opens up the possibility of a victory, but only if we’re an alliance working together is that going to be possible.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note —-—

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Amy, Peter and I had a great long meeting on Saturday and I really respect so much what he’s done and the passion for which he’s campaigned for people who don’t have a voice, certainly not in Sacramento, dominated by big donors and special interests. And all of that will be worked out. I think here we have for the first time, the possibility of, not just sending a message, but electing a progressive governor, just because of the way the recall provisions, as you mentioned in the beginning, allowed somebody to become governor simply by getting the majority of the votes. But not a simple majority, the plurality. So that is kind of unique, and out of chaos come opportunities. There’s no question, it’s going be a chaotic 2 1/2 months. But what’s wrong with that? Frankly the predictability of the system that has limited choices and has meant that the two parties had had a lock on incumbent re-election is something we need to shake up anyway.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for being with us. Arianna Huffington may run for governor in California and be on the recall ballot. Among other things, she is author of Pigs at the Trough: How Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining America. Peter Camejo also on the line with us. He is the declared Green Party candidate for governor on the recall ballot and Ted Costa, anti-tax activist who started the recall initiative, C.E.O. of “People’s Advocate.”

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