On Saturday, 17 days before the Oct. 7 gubernatorial recall election, candidates spread across the state to campaign in hopes that the federal courts will overturn a decision that the date must be delayed to prevent the use of unreliable punch-card ballots.



While his opponents portray California as an economic basket case with job shortages and unaffordable energy and housing prices, Gov. Gray Davis managed to find voters happily eating brunch and drinking lattes in San Francisco, an area hard hit by the dot-com bust.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina accompanied Davis to a cafe near the heavily gay Castro district. Local residents warmly welcomed the governor, who signed a domestic partner bill Friday granting same-sex couples in California nearly all the same rights and responsibilities as married spouses.

The governor boasted of his support for gay rights and said he was happy to be ``in the hood.''



A group of conservatives prayed for public officials who ``are going liberal.'' The prayer was offered at a breakfast for state Sen. Tom McClintock, a Republican candidate trying to replace Davis, at a yacht club in Corona Del Mar. The group, led by former state Assemblyman Gilbert Ferguson, asked God to bless McClintock.



In the wake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's splashy appearance on Oprah Winfrey's daytime TV show last week, Davis has made contact with the talk show seeking equal time. Davis' spokesman Peter Ragone said the governor ``is in discussions'' about a possible appearance.



``The California Republican County Chairmen's Association has never before endorsed a candidate, but then again we have never before been faced with a statewide recall election.''

_ Ken Nehring, association president, confirming that the chairmen of most of the Republican committees in California's 58 counties will meet Thursday in Sacramento to discuss whether to make an endorsement.