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Huffington blasts Schwarzenegger as Bush Republican

Taking aim at GOP front-runner

Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington is running as a nonpartisan candidate in the October 7 special election to recall Gov. Gray Davis.
Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington is running as a nonpartisan candidate in the October 7 special election to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Seeking to defuse the campaign of Republican rival Arnold Schwarzenegger, California gubernatorial hopeful Arianna Huffington on Thursday blasted the movie star as a "good friend of the Bush administration" beholden to special interests.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Bush Republican through and through," said the best-selling author, who is running as an independent in the October 7 special election to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

Huffington then ran through a litany of questions she wants the GOP front-runner to answer, focusing on what she described as ties to Enron chief Ken Lay and various Republicans.

The name Enron resonates in California because the failed energy giant -- which collapsed amid reports of shady accounting -- was accused of taking advantage of the state's energy crisis in 2001 to make money.

"Clearly, Schwarzenegger is a very good friend of the Bush administration," Huffington said. "But this administration is no friend to the people of California. Indeed, at times, it seems as if the Bush administration has declared war on California."

During a stop at a Los Angeles middle school, Schwarzenegger said he didn't recall the meeting with Lay.

"I can't remember every meeting I've had over the last 10 years," he said.

He also said he was adding George Shultz, the U.S. secretary of state during the Reagan administration, to his economic team, which is being headed up by billionaire Warren Buffet, a Democrat.

Wednesday, President Bush told reporters that Schwarzenegger "would be a good governor, as would others running for governor of California." (Full story)

Huffington criticized Schwarzenegger for attacking Davis for being fiscally irresponsible, "while he's actually ignoring the orgy of fiscally irresponsibility going on in Washington by the Republican Congress."

Recall supporters have blamed Davis for California's budget deficit -- which until a recent budget deal had stood at $38 billion, but is now at $8 billion -- and his handling of a severe energy crisis which led to rolling blackouts throughout the state in 2001.

Democrats in turn blame Bush for the weak economy and for federal policies that made the energy crisis much worse.

Huffington urged journalists to pose tough questions to Schwarzenegger "whenever he decides to start answering questions."

At Thursday's news conference, Huffington, who lives in a house worth more than $1 million, was asked how an affluent person like herself could speak for all Californians.

"I think it is very important for people who are blessed with a lot of privileges to take up the causes of those who need to have a greater voice in our democracy," she said. "I think this has been a great tradition in American democracy. I'm proud to be part of it."

Huffington and Schwarzenegger are among the better known of the 135 candidates who qualified for the recall ballot. The list of candidates was released Wednesday night by the California Secretary of State's office.

Other well-known candidates on the list include Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante; Republicans Bill Simon -- who lost to Davis nine months ago in the general election -- and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth; Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, a Democrat. (Complete list)

In a two-part ballot, voters will be asked whether Davis should be recalled and if so, who should replace him as governor. Davis' name will not be listed among the possible replacement candidates.

If the governor is recalled, whoever wins a plurality of votes would serve out the remainder of Davis' term.

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