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Calif. Recall Ballot Will Have 135 Names

August 14, 2003 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ The bloated California recall ballot has become a little more manageable after nearly half of the 247 applicants were eliminated for filing improper paperwork.

The Oct. 7 election will have 135 candidates attempting to succeed Gov. Gray Davis. The list of top contenders includes actor and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, independent commentator Ariana Huffington and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.

The only name missing from the choices is Gray Davis. The state Supreme Court refused to hear Davis’ lawsuit to have his name added to the list of those who want his job.

Voters will first decide whether Davis should be ousted, and then pick who should replace him from the motley field that includes a discount cigarette retailer, a used car salesman, a golf pro, a retired police officer, a bounty hunter, a porn star and a sumo wrestler.

The ballot was certified by the secretary of state Wednesday with little fanfare, as election officials feverishly verified the last of the 247 would-be governors who submitted papers to run. In the end, 112 were tossed out for improper paperwork.

Those who didn’t make the ballot included Donald A. Novello, who played Father Guido Sarducci of ``Saturday Night Live″ fame, and Mathilda Karel Spak, who at 100 would have been the oldest candidate.

``I’m not going to worry about it,″ Spak said.

The field includes 50 Democrats, 42 Republicans and 32 independents, as well as members of small parties such as the Greens and Libertarians.

The one-of-a-kind ballot is likely the largest ever of gubernatorial candidates in one election, said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

``There’s nothing comes close,″ Cain said. ``I think it’s fair to say it’s a record, and probably a national record.″

Among an assortment of everyday Californians are billboard model Angelyne, former child actor Gary Coleman and publisher Larry Flynt.

Before voters face the lengthy ballot, many questions remain about how the next 54 days will unfold as scores of candidates try to get out their message.

Even the traditional political forum _ the debate _ faces a unique test: how to get the candidates together without the stage collapsing.

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On Thursday, the California Broadcasters Association planned to tackle that subject with plans for a 90-minute debate. The group planned to announce its criteria for selecting candidates and the proposed format aimed at giving ``real Californians″ a chance to ask questions.

State and county election officials must sort out the logistics and costs of putting on the first-ever California gubernatorial recall.

``Our next task is to turn our attention to the mechanics of Oct. 7, so that we can work on the details of a smooth Election Day operation,″ Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said in a statement.

The recall election, expected to cost $67 million, comes amid a record state budget crisis. Deficit-strapped counties are tapping emergency reserves, using money budgeted for the March primary and hoping the state pitches in.

On the campaign front Wednesday:

_Davis reaffirmed his support for abortion rights and said he was getting advice from former President Clinton.

_Schwarzenegger, who rode a wave of publicity in the days after he announced his candidacy, made no appearances, but his campaign announced it had tapped billionaire investor Warren Buffett as a financial adviser. Campaign disclosure forms showed the actor gave his campaign $1 million on Tuesday.

_Huffington said she would campaign with Camejo, and Camejo said he would encourage Green Party members to vote for Huffington if she pulls ahead of him before Oct. 7. Huffington said she would consider a similar move ``if Peter somehow catches fire.″

Huffington, an author and commentator and the ex-wife if multimillionaire former congressman Michael Huffington, has criticized ``fat cats″ who avoid paying taxes. But the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that according to returns Huffington provided to the newspaper, she paid no personal state income tax and $771 in personal federal taxes over the last two years.

Huffington, who has a corporation to manage her writing and lecturing business, said her expenses exceeded profits in those years because of the cyclical nature of book publishing. Payments to her for child support are not taxable income, the paper said.

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On the Net:

Secretary of State’s recall site: http://www.ss.ca.gov/elections/recall_cand.htm