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Democratic unity crumbles in California

Lt. gov. enters race; insurance commissioner vows the same

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante

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SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- The Democratic solidarity that California Gov. Gray Davis had counted on to help defeat the gubernatorial effort crumbled in earnest Thursday as the state's lieutenant governor -- a fellow Democrat -- said he was putting his name on the October 7 recall ballot.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, 50, cast his decision as a political calculation on behalf of members of his party. Bustamante said he opposed the recall, but said Democrats must face political reality -- that Davis is in political peril.

"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."

Another prominent state Democrat, Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, said he plans to take out papers to run.

The moves are a serious blow to Davis' efforts to maintain a unified Democratic front. The state AFL-CIO had also urged Democrats to stay off the ballot.

Davis enjoyed one major success Wednesday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and arguably the state's most popular politician, announced that she would not enter the race.

But whatever comfort Davis may have felt was short-lived. Wednesday night, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, announced that he was a gubernatorial candidate, a move that surprised most observers and rocked the political landscape.

Hours later, Bustamante sent out word that he too would be a candidate and he followed up his decision with a news conference Thursday.

"I came to this reluctantly," said Bustamante, who just last month had said he would not place his name on the ballot. "But the facts are, this recall is a reality."

A former state Assembly speaker -- the first Latino to hold that post -- Bustamante said polls show a "declining political viability" for Davis, who has seen his popularity plummet amid a lackluster state economy and a $38 billion deficit.

"I'm hoping we defeat this recall," Bustamante said and he vowed to "fight like heck" against it. But if that fails, "it's important we (Democrats) provide a strategy to maintain" the governor's office.

U.S. Sen . Barbara Boxer has said she'll announce Friday if she thinks another Democrat should enter the fray.

Saturday is the deadline for candidates to file their paperwork.

The recall election will have two parts.

First, voters will be asked whether to recall Davis. Then, they will get to choose from a list of possible successors. If the first vote goes against Davis, the candidate who wins the most votes in the second question will be California's new governor.

Davis has petitioned the state Supreme Court to have his name placed on the second part of the ballot and to move the vote to March.


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