Will Gray Davis quit?

Robert Novak
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Posted: Jun 21, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Prominent California Democrats are pressing to get Gov. Gray Davis to resign rather than face a recall that may replace him with a Republican governor in a special October election.

Oakland Mayor (and former California governor) Jerry Brown, in Washington this past week, speculated that Davis could instantly destroy the recall movement by resigning. That would elevate Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to the governorship. Sen. Barbara Boxer has sketched the same scenario in private conversations with fellow Democrats.

These Democrats express skepticism that Gray would voluntarily surrender the prize that he sought his entire political life. Nevertheless, he could derail the recall at any time prior to the actual balloting by just quitting.

RESTRICTING BOB GRAHAM

The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, ready to make it impossible for Sen. Bob Graham to enter Democratic presidential primaries while keeping his options open for Senate re-election, may consider further limitations on him.

Before it adjourns next week, the Legislature is expected to move the May 7 deadline for the Senate primary to early March -- prior to the California and Florida presidential primaries. If the Democratic nominee is not determined by then, Graham would have to make an early decision on whether to abandon his presidential ambitions or leave the Senate.

However, it appears Graham could run simultaneously for vice president and senator (as Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut did in 2000). The Legislature may consider prohibiting that possibility.

KILLING TAX REBATES?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's selections of Republican conferees on the child tax credit bill may kill cash payments to low-income people who don't pay federal income taxes. Although such legislation has passed both chambers of Congress, it could die in a Senate-House conference.

Frist routinely named Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, who strongly supported the cash payments, to head the three Senate GOP conferees. But he selected as the other two conferees Sens. Don Nickles and Trent Lott, third- and fourth-ranking Republicans on Finance (skipping over second-ranking Sen. Orrin Hatch). Nickles was one of only two senators to vote against the child tax credit bill, and Lott clutched his throat with a choking signal as he voted "aye."

Nickles and Lott could work with the two House Republicans conferees, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas and Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to bury the issue.

SEMI-GREEN AT EPA

Although Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has attracted the ire of the environmentalist lobby as the leading candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), free market advocates are not thrilled about him. Conservatives view Kempthorne as superior to the resigned Christine Todd Whitman as EPA administrator, but contend President Bush could do better.

Kempthorne's free market critics did not like his sponsorship, as a U.S. senator in 1997, of legislation that would have given only huge land owners a way to avoid the Endangered Species Act. He also won passage of the 1996 safe drinking water bill, which led to arsenic standards imposed by President Bill Clinton as he left office in 2000.

A conservative alternative: Jackee Schafer, a former Senate staffer and official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

$2,000 HOT DOG

Republican contributors who paid $2,000 each to kick off George W. Bush's re-election campaign with a $4 million fund-raiser at the Washington Hilton Hotel were surprised by the arrangements: no chairs for seating, and hot dogs and cheeseburgers as eating fare.

President Bush's campaign operatives claim that the donors liked the unusual setup. They were able to roam around the hotel's ballroom and chat with friends as they awaited the president's performance.

A footnote: Washington lobbyists experienced no trouble at all selling 10 tickets (for a total of $20,000) to become a "co-chairman" of the inaugural event. Another $80,000 has to be raised to become a Bush "Pioneer" and another $120,000 to be a "Ranger."