Many Governors Sympathetic to Davis
Aug. 17, 2003
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Many of the nation's governors said they are sympathetic to embattled California Gov. Gray Davis and are breathing a collective sigh of relief that their states don't have California's relatively convenient recall rules.
Members of the Democratic Governors Association will campaign in California for Davis and will probably send money to the state to try to defeat the recall effort, said Washington Gov. Gary Locke, chairman of the group.
Locke said all but a couple of governors are facing their own financial crises because of the downturn in the economy. ``The problems in California are not Gray Davis' fault, nor can they be solved by a new governor,'' Locke said.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said his group supports the recall effort but isn't backing a particular candidate running to replace Davis.
``We think the last years under Gray Davis have been bereft of leadership and that California could benefit from a Republican governor,'' Owens said.
But some Republicans interviewed at the governors' summer meeting said they are uncomfortable with the recall.
``My concern about recalls is that it basically begins to limit one's ability to do anything other than what is politically expedient or popular at the moment,'' said Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, which doesn't have a recall provision. ``At the moment may be a long way from what in the long run is in the best interest of the country.''
Many of the governors are facing budget cuts that have required them to run a deficit, consider tax increases or cut services. But no matter how unpopular their decisions become, recall is not an option under most state laws.
The 18 states that allow voters to remove governors from office generally have a tougher threshold to get the question on the ballot than in California. While Gray's opponents needed enough valid signature to equal 12 percent of the voters in the last election, in most states the standard is 25 percent.
Arizona is one state with the 25 percent rule, and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano said she is thankful for that.
``Governors have to make very tough decisions and you can't be looking over your shoulder to make sure that some millionaire who didn't even run in the last election is out to get you,'' Napolitano said.
Only one governor has ever been recalled _ Lynn J. Frazier, leader of North Dakota during World War I. He was recalled in 1921 as the economy faltered and his Nonpartisan League party's socialist policies fell into disfavor.
But the neighboring state of South Dakota doesn't have a recall provision. During an interview, Republican South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds asked an aide what the state's process is for removing a governor from office.
``I think you have to shoot him,'' the aide deadpanned, then explained the state has an impeachment provision similar to the process for removing a president.
Rounds and several other governors said they are concerned the instability and budget problems related to the recall could exacerbate financial problems in their own states.
``They are a huge part of the United States' economy, so the rest of us are watching with a lot of interest,'' Rounds said. ``We look at it as a serious issue.''
For example, Californians facing economic problems may not vacation in Maine, said Maine Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat. Nebraska could see a drop in the sale of ethanol to California, said Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican.
``I think whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, you just want this to be over,'' Johanns said.
National Governor's Association, http://www.nga.org