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Court dismisses recall challenges

Democratic lieutenant governor challenges Davis

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a few autographs Thursday before entering the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office.

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California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger picks up his filing papers to run for governor
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CNN's Jeff Greenfield on Arnold Schwarzenegger's surprising announcement.
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CNN's Leon Harris talks with California gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington as she enters what she calls 'the battle of the accents.'
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Who would you vote for as governor of California?
The "Terminator"
A "Smut-peddler who cares"
A melon-smashing comedian
A socialite-turned-columnist
A "Diff'rent Strokes" actor
None of the above

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- California's star-studded recall election will continue as scheduled after the California Supreme Court announced Thursday that it will not consider legal challenges to the process.

The news comes as a blow to Democratic Gov. Gray Davis who had asked the state's top court to delay the vote until the March presidential primary, arguing that the October date did not give election officials enough time to prepare and could cause voting rights problems.

Davis had also asked the high court to let him run as his own replacement and raised the issue of whether Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante should take over if the recall vote goes against the governor. Other challenges were also filed and denied by the court.

The seven-member court unanimously rejected four of the five petitions; the fifth was rejected by a 5-2 vote.

The decision by the Republican-dominated high court clears the way for an October 7 election in which voters will first be asked whether to recall Davis and will then vote for a replacement candidate who will take over as chief executive should he be ousted. (Gallery: The recall and candidates)

The deadline for filing is Saturday but the election already has a long list, and an odd mix, of candidates. Traditional politicians, mainstream celebrities and a host of gadflies, activists and attention seekers are on the list that has swelled to more than 370 official candidates.

The court's announcement was the latest news in the fast developing saga. Over the past 24 hours, Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he would run for governor and the millionaire Republican who bankrolled the recall process dropped out of the race in a tearful press conference.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, from San Diego County, told supporters Thursday afternoon he would not place his name on the recall ballot.

"I know that comes as a surprise to many, but this was never about higher office. It was about higher obligation," Issa said, adding that he would continue to help pay for the recall effort.

The news has evolved fast in the state's unprecedented election.

Early Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she should not enter the race, despite heavy lobbying from fellow Democrats. Later, Schwarzenegger dropped a bombshell with his decision -- announced on NBC's "The Tonight Show" -- to enter the race as a Republican. Facing a crowd of well-wishers, autograph-seekers and television cameras, he picked up the necessary paperwork in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon.

Also added to the mix since Wednesday morning: columnist and talk show host Arianna Huffington and Bustamante.

At a news conference Thursday, Bustamante said he entered the race -- even though he opposes the recall -- because Davis' "viability" is in question and Democrats need a strong alternative. (Full story)

"I'm here to tell everyone to vote no on the recall and yes on Bustamante," he said. "It is important that a serious Democrat is on the ballot."

Bustamante, 50, is former speaker of the California Assembly -- the first Latino to hold that post. He grew up in the state's Central Valley.

Davis supporters, national party officials and the powerful California Labor Federation had all urged Democratic politicians to stay off the ballot, hoping Davis would have a better chance to unite Democratic voters against a possible GOP opponent.

But their unity may not hold as another statewide Democratic officeholder, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, said he planned to enter the race.

Feinstein, one of the state's most popular elected officials and a longtime political rival of the governor, issued a statement Wednesday saying she would not run and that the recall of Davis would be a "terrible mistake." (Full story)

Former L.A. mayor endorses Schwarzenegger

"It's very important that we straighten out the mess we are in," Schwarzenegger said in a short speech to hundreds of people who had gathered to witness the spectacle outside the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office where he picked up the necessary papers.

"I'm passionate about California. I'm very passionate because I have been received by Californians with open arms in 1968 when I came here as an immigrant, when I had no money, and the Californians reached out and helped me to be where I am today. And now it's time for me to give something back to California."

Schwarzenegger's candidacy has already had an impact on the race. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, a fellow moderate Republican who had been considering a bid, announced that he would not run and endorsed Schwarzenegger.

"The recall election offers us a choice: We can either continue with politics as usual in California, or we can elect someone who works on behalf of every Californian, not just the special interests," Riordan said in a statement. "I believe Arnold Schwarzenegger is a very talented man who would make an excellent governor."

Thursday, former U.S. Rep. Michael Huffington -- Arianna Huffington's former husband -- released a statement saying he would not run, and he endorsed Schwarzenegger, calling him "a charismatic leader."

The Austrian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor -- who created a film icon in the apocalyptic "Terminator" movies -- was peppered with questions from reporters about how he would transform the state's budget. Schwarzenegger said he would announce details to his plan "soon."

San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, one of the governor's strongest backers said Davis will have trouble keeping the governor's seat now that Schwarzenegger is in the race.

"We are in trouble on the Democratic side with Governor Davis," Brown told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday afternoon. "I think we're -- as Democrats -- going to have a very difficult time defeating Arnold."

Meanwhile, Davis went about the routine tasks of being governor, making several appearances, including delivering a speech before delegates at a California School Employees Association conference who chanted "no recall" during his 20-minute address.

"They want to get rid of me to get rid of the progress," said Davis, who also exhorted the audience to "terminate the 'Terminator'."

Unconventional candidates include 'smut-peddler who cares'

Other major Republican names expected in the race include state Sen. Tom McClintock of Ventura County; and businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in the general election nine months ago.

The race has also brought out dozens of unconventional candidates.

TV pundit and syndicated columnist Huffington, 53, also a political Independent, noted in her candidacy announcement that she is different from the politicians Californians are used to.(Full story)

"I'm not, to say the least, a conventional candidate," said Huffington, who was born in Greece and, like Schwarzenegger, has a distinct accent. "But these are not conventional times. And if we keep electing the same kinds of politicians who got us into the same kinds of mess funded by the same special interests, we'll never get out of this mess."

But Huffington will not be the only candidate that offers something different to voters.

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt also has announced his bid for the governor's office as the "smut-peddler who cares." (Full story)

Others who have filed with the state in order to receive campaign documents include: former sitcom star Gary Coleman of "Diff'rent Strokes" fame (Full story); the melon-smashing comedian Gallagher; comedian D.L. Hughley; and Angelyne, a model who made herself famous in southern California by putting her picture on billboards.

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