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California ballot official, ready to print

Bush visiting state Thursday

Gov. Gray Davis is conferring with former President Clinton on how to beat the recall.
Gov. Gray Davis is conferring with former President Clinton on how to beat the recall.

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A mad dash to the California recall election
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R, W, Q, O, J, M, V, A, H, B, S, G, Z, X, N, T, C, I, E, K, U, P, D, Y, F, L.

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- California's Secretary of State said Wednesday that 135 candidates will appear on the October 7 ballot for the special election to decide whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis and who may replace him.

A total of 247 people had originally filed papers to be on the ballot, but 112 of them didn't qualify because they either did not pay the required $3,500 filing fee or did not turn in the necessary 65 signatures.

The race -- dubbed a "fascinating bit of political drama" by President Bush -- is shaping up to be the wildest election in the country this fall.

The field of candidates includes a celluloid action hero, the state's Democratic lieutenant governor, last year's GOP gubernatorial nominee and a pornographic publisher.

And a subplot emerged Wednesday with Democratic accusations of White House involvement in the recall, a charge rejected by the administration. (Full story)

Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, the candidate attracting the most attention by virtue of his movie-star status, announced some changes to his campaign staff, even as the candidate himself stayed out of sight. (Full story)

In Crawford, Texas, Bush -- who is due to visit California Thursday -- described himself as an interested observer, and White House aides dismissed Democratic suggestions that the administration was somehow involved in the recall effort.

"Like you, I'm most interested in seeing how the process evolves," Bush told reporters. "It's a fascinating bit of political drama evolving in the country's largest state."

California voters will be asked October 7 whether to recall the embattled Democratic incumbent and who his replacement should be. That second question becomes moot if Davis -- under fire for dire state finances -- defeats the recall.

The governor stuck to a strategy of sticking to his official schedule and trying to seem above the political fray.

"I am working as hard as I can to make this state better," Davis told supporters Wednesday in San Francisco.

Davis and Clinton

Davis has been conferring with former President Bill Clinton, who is advising the embattled governor on how to beat the recall. Davis told CNN that he's reached out to Clinton for help.(Full story)

The two men talked in person at an AFL-CIO convention in Chicago last week and have talked "several times" since then, according to a source familiar with talks between the two men.

The ballot promises to be unusual. State officials have introduced a new order for the English alphabet, which will determine the order that the names of the candidates will appear on the ballot.

For the purposes of the recall vote, the alphabet will begin with R, W and Q.

California follows the "randomized alphabet" process for all its elections, with the goal of ensuring fairness in the placement of candidates' names.

The procedure was established in 1975 after courts ruled that standard alphabetical order or incumbent-first placement was unconstitutional because undecided voters have a 5 percent positional bias, according to the California Secretary of State's Web site.

The ballot -- with an unprecedented number of candidates for a single office -- promises to be a logistical nightmare for elections officials and a brain teaser for voters. Davis says the election will cost about $70 million.

Schwarzenegger, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Bill Simon -- who lost to Davis nine months ago in the general election -- will be on the ballot alongside Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, former child actor Gary Coleman, Independent candidate and columnist Arianna Huffington, and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, among others. (Gallery: The recall and candidates)

If the recall succeeds, the candidate with the most votes -- no majority is necessary -- will take over as governor and serve the remaining three years of Davis' term.

There could be another wrinkle to the ballot. There is, election officials noted, the possibility of write-in candidates.

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