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Reconquista Camejo defends intent to run for Calif. Governor

Camejo defends intent to run

The Green Party candidate says he is not a 'spoiler' for entering recall race.

By David Whitney -- Bee Washington Bureau
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT
Saturday, July 19, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Green Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo bristles when called a "spoiler" for deciding to run on the recall ballot to replace Gov. Gray Davis. By adding his name, Camejo undermines the Democratic position that only Republicans want Davis out.

The way Camejo sees it, however, he has no choice, because Democrats seem to have joined in a "suicide pact."

By not offering their own successor candidate, Camejo said at a press conference Friday, the Democrats are telling voters that "you accept our utterly corrupt governor or you will have a Republican governor." And that, he said, is not how a democracy should work.

"What Davis is doing is forcing a vote not only over whether you approve of him, but whether you approve of the Republicans, especially the conservative wing," he said. "My strategy is to turn the Republican maneuver into its exact opposite and elect the most progressive governor the state has ever had -- and let the Republicans pay for that."

Camejo, who captured less than 6 percent of the vote in the November gubernatorial election, acknowledged that he doesn't have much of a chance.

But waving a recent Los Angles Times poll showing him doing slightly better than some of the Republicans considering a run for Davis' job, he said it's not a hopeless cause if more than one or two of them are on the ballot.

There's another strategy at work, however, he said at the press conference.

Camejo said he is "in discussions" with Democrats, whom he wouldn't name, in an effort to place the name of a progressive on the ballot whom the Green Party can get behind.

He described that person as someone who supports raising the minimum wage and allowing undocumented workers to be licensed to drive. That person, he said, also would oppose both the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, which has made it easier for the government to track suspected terrorists despite concerns about erosion of civil liberties.

Camejo wouldn't identify who such a person might be.

But when asked about Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., he said her entry into the contest would probably cause him to step aside, even though she would flunk key parts of his litmus test.

"Dianne Feinstein would keep me out," he said. "The L.A. Times poll shows that she walks away with it if the Republicans remain divided. If she's in the race, I crash."

Another third-party fixture, meanwhile, weighed in Friday on the recall effort against Davis.

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, in Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament, told KSTE radio that he thinks the California recall is "ridiculous."

"It's going to open up Pandora's box to where every time you have an election, the other side's going to run out to their constituents, they're going to gather enough signatures, and you're going to have another election a year later," Ventura said.

Ventura, an independent whose own state economy slumped before he opted not to seek a second term last year, said Davis isn't the only governor with a budget problem.

"People love to blame the governors," he said, "but when 49 other states are also in deficits, too, that means it isn't what that particular governor necessarily did."