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Political parties prepare for post-election legal wrangling

From John Mercurio

Davis answers questions on CNN's
Davis answers questions on CNN's "Larry King Live" Sunday.

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Cruz Bustamante
Gray Davis
California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The California recall campaign ended Tuesday, but if you think it's been confusing until now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

With the specter of Florida 2000 fresh in their minds, both political parties are preparing for post-election legal wrangling that could throw the election back into court and leave Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, in office into mid-November.

"Absolutely," state Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland recently told the Modesto Bee newspaper, when asked about the party's preparations for a national drive to raise $100,000 for possible legal challenges.

"We're going to do everything that's legal to have the votes counted in California, and we're putting the Republicans on notice that we're prepared for their goon tactics this time."

Both parties braced for a confusing Wednesday, in part because of the wide array of voting processes being used in the state's 58 counties.

But even in the event of a successful recall, the governor cannot be removed from office until California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley certifies the election results.

Under state law, Shelley, also a Democrat, has until November 15 -- a full 39 days after Tuesday's election -- to complete the certification process.

The winner must take office within 10 days of the results being certified. If the winner does not take office within that time period -- because of death, felony conviction or refusal to take office -- the lieutenant governor will become governor.

If projected winner Arnold Schwarzenegger takes office, Democrat Cruz Bustamante remains lieutenant governor. The next election for lieutenant governor is scheduled to be held in November 2006.

But Davis' successor could become the target of a recall campaign as soon as the election results are certified.

If he's certified the winner, bodybuilder-turned-actor Schwarzenegger will accomplish something that none of his Kennedy in-laws ever could: win a race for governor.

If the recall is certified, Davis would become the first governor to be recalled since 1921, when North Dakota voters ousted Gov. Lynn Frazier.

But if history is any guide, Davis might not be finished in politics. Frazier was elected to the Senate the following year and went on to serve there for 18 years.

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