EDITORIAL LEGAL HIGH JINKS GOVERNOR NEEDS TO STOP LITIGATING AND START LEADING.
So far, the Davis strategy seems to be confuse and confound, when it should be describe and defend - describe his plans for the future, and defend his record to date.
But instead of leading, Davis has taken to litigating, hoping that the California Supreme Court will do for him what he seems to believe California's people won't: Let him keep his job.
To that end, he's filed some of the most improbable of lawsuits.
The first challenges provisions of the state's nearly century-old recall law that preclude him from appearing on the ballot as one of the candidates vying to succeed himself. Attorneys for Davis claim that this is a violation of Davis' right to due process.
Davis will get more due process than he can handle when Californians get to vote up or down on his leadership. That he can't run in the succession race is merely common sense enshrined in law: If a clear majority of voters boot a politician from office, a small minority shouldn't be allowed to put him back in.
Then there's a second lawsuit, arguing that, because the recall election would - like other special elections - use fewer polling stations, it would ``disenfranchise'' a good number of California voters.
But in a special election with fewer questions on the ballot, not as many polling stations are needed, and county election officials - many of them Democrats - reject Davis' suggestion that they won't provide adequate voting opportunities.
The lawsuits are both laughably specious, but they have their purpose.
The longer Davis can cast uncertainty on the recall process, the longer he can keep serious Democratic successors on the sideline. Public-employee unions, who largely finance Democratic campaigns and who have Davis tucked in their back pocket, have sent an unambiguous message to other top party officials: Run in the succession race, and your political career is over.
No Democrat with any hopes for future office is going to buck the unions unless reasonably confident that he or she can win the succession race. But as long as the very nature and timing of such a race are subject to judicial override, no Democrat dare enter it.
That's exactly the way Davis wants it.
Knowing that the deadline for candidates to get on the ballot is Saturday, he need only keep his bogus lawsuits alive until then. Whether he wins or loses the cases is largely irrelevant.
The longer Davis can keep the public confused about the potential consequences of recall, he reasons, the more voters will turn to him as the devil they know.
For Davis, confusion is an ally, one of the few true allies he has left.
But his is a short-sighted strategy. California's voters crave real solutions and real choices, not dirty tricks.
The entry of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger into the race guarantees that voters will have a well-funded candidate who poses an alternative to Davis.
This is as it should be - a decision made by voters, not judges - and the California Supreme Court ought to dismiss Davis' lawsuits in short order, thereby forcing the real debate on the future of California to begin.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 7, 2003|
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