Hurricanes, earthquakes and twisters
By John Mercurio
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- John Edwards timed his '04 kickoff for early enough this week to avoid being swamped by news coverage of Hurricane Isabel. What Edwards didn't anticipate was the California recall earthquake that now threatens to rock his big day.
And then there's the buzzy twister in Arkansas, where Wesley Clark is huddling with former Clinton adviser Mark Fabiani and other political minds as he prepares to make his Big Announcement.
Clark is expected to launch his candidacy in his hometown of Little Rock with an announcement at 12 noon (1 p.m. EDT) Wednesday. He has assembled a team of campaign operatives that include veterans of the campaigns of former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
Clark, 58, is a West Point graduate, Rhodes Scholar and former CNN military analyst who led U.S. and allied forces in the 1999 air war in Kosovo. He declared his party affiliation September 4 in an interview with CNN's Judy Woodruff.
The key figures in Little Rock with Clark today are Eli Siegel, a Clinton '92 veteran and former AmeriCorps director, who will play a key role in the campaign; Donnie Fowler Jr., a Gore 2000 field director, who is expected to be campaign manager; attorney and Gore ally Ron Klain; George Bruno, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair; and, of course, Fabiani.
The Clark folks weren't the only huddlers yesterday. Out here in Recall Land, attorneys for both camps in Southwest Voter Registration v. Shelley were locked in telephone conference calls, preparing today's responses to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, which postponed the October 7 election on the grounds that using punch-card ballot machines would disenfranchise poor and minority voters.
Taking center stage today in California will be pro-recall Republican Ted Costa, a self-described "political wacko" and a college dropout who works out of a renovated roller rink (the one behind the Krispy Kreme in Sacramento) and has single-handedly crafted some of California's more far-reaching ballot initiatives, including the effort to recall Gray Davis.
Costa's not rich like Darrell Issa (he makes about $40,000 a year and drives a Ford Pinto). And he's certainly not ripped like Arnold Schwarzenegger (he's 62 years old and wiry, slouches, stands about 5 feet 6 inches). But the recall's rich and powerful will take a back seat today to Costa, who, as the original force behind the recall, plans to appeal the three-judge panel's ruling to the Supremes, as early as this morning.
"We're going to the Supreme Court," Costa told the Grind yesterday. "We are hoping to have something ready to go to the court tomorrow."
"We killed 11 of these," he added, referring to other lawsuits filed by anti-recall advocates. "This is the appeal of the 12th, which we won in the lower court. That judge said that if the voting machines were good enough to elect the governor, they were good enough to recall the governor. This governor has been elected five times with these machines, and five times he's never complained. Now he's a little behind the polls, and he's whining."
The only other potential appellant, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, a Democrat, opted out of Monday's news cycle, declining media interviews and remaining behind closed doors with attorneys to review the court ruling. Late Monday, Shelley's office released a statement saying ... that Shelly would say something today. But not until 5 p.m. EDT.
Shelley's options: Take the case to the full 9th Circuit or join Costa in Washington.
"Our office is reviewing the 65-page decision and conferring with the [state] Attorney General's office concerning options in response to this decision," Shelley said in a brief statement, which the Grind received at 8:47 p.m. EDT. "It is very important that every one of us understand that, as of today, all preparations for the October 7th election should continue. You should continue to mail out absentee ballots, train poll workers, secure polling places, and otherwise prepare for the election."
One pro-recall attorney, Chuck Diamond, told CNN yesterday that he's concerned Shelley will try to run out the clock on the election before deciding it has to go to until March.
Also today, former recall candidate Peter Ueberroth -- a Republican who insisted he was running as an independent, but was still a Republican -- will meet with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock. Ueberroth will hold a press conference following his meetings at the DoubleTree Guest Suites in Santa Monica.
But back to Edwards, who plans to brave the Perfect Storm and announce his presidential campaign today at 10 a.m. EDT in Robbins, North Carolina. Edwards will do so in front of the old Milliken Mill where his father Wallace worked. Edwards will continue his announcement day with a 4 p.m. EDT event in Columbia, South Carolina, at the University of South Carolina.