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Rival asks where Schwarzenegger stands on issues

Simon vows to seek 6.5 percent budget cuts if elected

Bill Simon
Bill Simon

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(CNN) -- Bill Simon accused Republican rival Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday of being unclear on the issues in the race to replace Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in the California recall election.

Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who appeared with Simon on NBC's "Meet the Press," said it would require "tough love" to make needed cuts in the state's budget.

Simon agreed and said there was no "tough love" in the last budget process. He said, if elected, he would ask state agencies to trim their budgets by 6.5 percent.

The vote on whether to recall Davis and then on his replacement is scheduled for October 7.

A Field Poll released this weekend showed Bustamante and Schwarzenegger in a virtual dead heat, with Bustamante holding a slight lead.

Republican State Sen. Tom McClintock was third in the poll, and Simon was fourth. Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who plans to launch his campaign Tuesday, fell in at fifth in the 135-candidate field.

Asked about reports that Republican leaders might be pressuring McClintock, Ueberroth and him to drop out and rally around Schwarzenegger, Simon he plans to be in the running until the end. "I'm not under any pressure to quit," he said.

"People are hungry for leadership," said Simon, pointing out that he lost to Davis in the 2002 general election by 300,000 votes in a state with 1 million more Democratic voters than Republicans.

"This is not about endorsements, this is not about politics; this is about doing the right thing," Simon said.

"What we need to do is focus on the message. Where does Mr. Schwarzenegger stand on the issues? We don't even know.

"I need to hear a plan to save California," Simon said. "We are now on the verge of a fiscal meltdown."

California had a $38 billion deficit in its nearly $99 billion budget for next fiscal year, but under recent legislation it was reduced to about $10 billion.

Bustamante has been criticized for tossing his hat in the ring, notably by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who called Bustamante a hypocrite for first condemning the recall and then deciding to run.

Bustamante said he opposes the recall but that voters need a Democratic alternative if Davis is removed from office.

"The voters have already voted for me to replace the governor in case he couldn't continue. I'm providing that second option," Bustamante said.

He said Californians are not interested in a "blame game." They want the issues debated, he said.

Asked whether there was guilt by association [with Davis] for the state's problems, Bustamante said they have different styles. He also said he doesn't expect a big break in the heavily Latino state because of his family heritage.

"No one's going to get a pass here," he said.

Independent and columnist Arianna Huffington turned up the heat Thursday on Schwarzenegger, blasting him as a "good friend of the Bush administration" beholden to special interests. (Full story)

Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, announced that former Secretary of State George Shultz had joined his campaign team as an adviser.

He had previously announced changes to his campaign staff, including the addition of billionaire investor Warren Buffett as an unpaid senior financial and economic adviser. (Full story)


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