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Simon drops out of California recall race

Davis: 'It's of no significance to me'

Bill Simon did not endorse any candidate in the gubernatorial recall race.
Bill Simon did not endorse any candidate in the gubernatorial recall race.

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CNN's Miguel Marquez reports on what Bill Simon's withdrawal means.
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Republican Bill Simon, who was a prominent rival to Arnold Schwarzenegger in California's race to recall Gov. Gray Davis, dropped out of the running Saturday.

"I come before you today to announce that I am withdrawing as a candidate for governor," Simon said in a videotaped statement recorded in Sacramento.

"I strongly believe the desire of Californians must come before the aspirations of any single candidate. There are too many Republicans in this race and the people of our state simply cannot risk a continuation of the Gray Davis legacy. For these reasons, I think it is wise to step aside."

He did not endorse Schwarzenegger -- or any other candidate -- in his one-minute statement.

Simon lost to Davis in the general election last fall and was one of 135 candidates seeking to replace him. Simon lost that race to Davis by just 300,000 votes in a state with 1 million more Democratic voters than Republicans.

Davis had little reaction to Simon's departure.

"It's of no significance to me," he told CNN.

Voters will decide October 7 whether to recall Davis and, if so, who should replace him in the governor's office. The recall was triggered by voter anger over the state's economic and energy woes. A recent budget agreement between Democratic and Republican legislators in Sacramento eliminated the state's $38 billion deficit through cuts and borrowing, but it created an expected shortfall of at least $8 billion for the next fiscal year.

Simon is a financier -- his investments include backing the family-friendly PaxTV network -- and father of four who once worked in the U.S. Attorney's office headed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Just after the news was made public, actor and Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a written statement, "Bill Simon is a friend and man I respect. I know his decision today, which he called me about personally, was difficult for him and [his wife] Cindy.

"Bill has strong convictions and a passion for ideas that will benefit California and its people. He will continue to be a force for change.

"I hope Bill's personal sacrifice will serve to unify Republicans and other Californians who are eager to join the movement to give California back its future."

Separately, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger said Simon's announcement means "the math is better" for the actor.

"Bill Simon and Arnold Schwarzenegger are agreed on so many issues that it's a natural that many of Bill Simon's supporters will come and embrace the Schwarzenegger campaign," said Rep. David Dreier, a fellow Republican who is a co-chairman of the actor's campaign. "Many have already indicated that."

During his recall campaign, Simon had criticized Schwarzenegger, saying his rival was sending out "contradictory messages" on taxes. Simon pledged not to raise them.

Dan Schnur, a spokesman for the campaign of former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, said Simon is "a good man and we hope he stays in public service.

"Of course we are staying in the race," he said. "[Ueberroth's] been getting a great response, and we're looking forward to moving forward."

GOP group had urged all but Schwarzenegger to leave

Simon's announcement comes a day after an influential conservative group in California threw its support to Schwarzenegger and urged other Republicans to get out of the race.

The group, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, said it believes Schwarzenegger is best suited to winning the race and solving the state's economic crisis. The endorsement comes just a day after the state GOP chairman said "there may come a time" for the Republican field to narrow.

Club President Tracy Price told CNN he believes Schwarzenegger can bring some "sanity" to the state's financial woes. Price said the Lincoln Club notified Simon and California Sen. Tom McClintock, another GOP hopeful, of its decision.

"We think it's Arnold's time," Price said.

A press officer for McClintock said the Republican will not drop from the race and predicted his campaign would benefit from Simon's departure.

McClintock said he is "genuinely sorry" that Simon dropped out.

"He offered a perspective to the debate that will be missed," McClintock said in a statement. "But his decision to withdraw intensifies my resolve to stay and fight."

Political commentator Arianna Huffington, who is running as an independent, said she respects Simon's decision but that his departure was part of a long pattern of "strong-arming" by both Democrats and Republicans to try to limit the field.

"The purpose of my campaign is to reach out to the more than 13 million disenfranchised voters who didn't participate in the last election and to renew their faith in the democratic process," Huffington said.

Speaking Saturday to a Latino group, Davis again emphasized his belief that the recall is wrong.

"A recall was supposed to be for abuse of office, something just a little under impeachment -- theft, criminality, gross malfeasance -- not that we don't like the kind of shirts the guy wears or, you know, he's not as funny as he should be," Davis said.

The governor said the recall will burden taxpayers, estimating the cost of an irregularly scheduled election at $65 million.

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