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Schwarzenegger getting key endorsements

Sources: Issa will follow Simon with endorsement Friday

From Bob Franken and John Mercurio
CNN Washington Bureau

Schwarzenegger and Simon meet reporters Thursday.
Schwarzenegger and Simon meet reporters Thursday.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Darrell Issa
Tom McClintock

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- In a sign Republican leaders may be closing ranks behind a single candidate in the California recall race, Arnold Schwarzenegger picked up a key endorsement Thursday, and sources said he was on the verge of getting another.

Bill Simon, a conservative businessman who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis last November, offered his "enthusiastic" endorsement at a news conference with Schwarzenegger Thursday afternoon.

Simon had filed to run for governor in the recall race but later dropped out of the campaign without offering an endorsement.

Sources close to Rep. Darrell Issa, the man who used his personal fortune to finance the petition campaign that triggered the recall, told CNN the congressman will endorse Schwarzenegger on Friday.

Simon shrugged off his opposition to Schwarzenegger early in the campaign, saying they share the common goal of building California's economy.

"I think it's now time to get behind one candidate for governor and I believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger has the best chance to be the next governor of California, and I think that is a very good thing," Simon said. "... I think his economic program is exactly what the state of California needs."

He said a highly critical radio ad he ran before dropping out of the race was mainly aimed at things Schwarzenegger's advisers had said, and Schwarzenegger "subsequently clarified those views to my great satisfaction about taxes and how he felt about taxes. ...

"We're not always going to agree on every issue, that's for sure, but we certainly agree on what I believe are the most important issues facing our great state, and those are economic issues," Simon said.

Schwarzenegger also got the endorsement of the California Republican County Chairmen's Association on Thursday. "We are attempting to break the logjam among Republican candidates for governor," said Jim Hartman, a vice chairman of the group, said after a meeting on the issue.

Schwarzenegger declined to comment on word that Issa will endorse him. Sources told CNN Issa was negotiating with the Schwarzenegger's campaign staff over Friday's announcement.

Issa, a multi-millionaire Republican congressman from San Diego County, poured more than $1 million of his own fortune into the recall initiative and had planned to run for governor himself. But he decided not to run after Schwarzenegger entered the race.

Sources close to another departed Republican candidate, Peter Ueberroth, said he will talk with Schwarzenegger and his closest Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock, again this weekend and will announce early next week whether he will make an endorsement.

Both Ueberroth's and Simon's names will still appear on the ballot.

Leading fundraising race

Schwarzenegger has pooled more than $5 million more than embattled Governor Gray Davis -- his closest fundraising competitor, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Since the announcement of a special election, Davis, a Democrat, has raised just over $8.2 million through his Californians Against The Costly Recall committee, with the vast majority of the money being used to buy television ads. His campaign committee has $1.4 million in cash remaining. Labor unions and developers have been his biggest contributors.

As of the filing deadline, Schwarzenegger had spent $11.5 million from his gubernatorial committee with $3.4 million remaining in cash, according to records.

Early in the campaign, Schwarzenegger said he would not solicit contributions, but has accepted millions in donations. According to campaign finance reports, Schwarzenegger has contributed $4.5 million of his own money to his campaign and loaned an additional $1.5 million to the effort.

In addition to his campaign committee for governor, Schwarzenegger created a separate Total Recall committee to support the drive to replace Davis.

At least six individuals have donated more than $100,000 to Schwarzenegger's recall committee which has no limit on the amount it can collect as long as it targets issues, like pro or anti-recall efforts. The gubernatorial candidate's Total Recall committee has raised $1.3 million to date.

Some of Schwarzenegger's most prominent contributors include former President George H.W. Bush who gave $1,000 dollars and entertainers Kelsey Grammer and Tom Arnold each giving $1,000, campaign records show.

Between his campaign and recall funds, Schwarzenegger has collected $13.6 million.

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