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California congressional Dems endorse Bustamante

House Democrats stress opposition to recall

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- California's Democratic congressional delegation on Thursday endorsed Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's bid for governor, even as the lawmakers reiterated their opposition to the gubernatorial recall.

"We strongly oppose the recall, but if California voters make a different choice, then Lt. Gov. Bustamante is the appropriate person to assume the office," said a written statement released by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chairwoman of the state's Democratic congressional delegation of 33 House Democrats.

The group does not include the state's two U.S. Democratic senators.

The move is a blow to embattled incumbent Gray Davis, who has struggled to maintain a picture of Democratic unity in the face of the GOP-initiated recall.

Davis said he understands "the desire of some people who want to have a fallback position. I'm happy that Democrats are united against the recall."

But Davis, speaking after an event with the California Black Chamber of Commerce in Millbrae, said he is focused instead on "getting people to understand that recalls will breed more recalls will breed more recalls, and all of a sudden there will be no time to do the job that people elected us to do."

The delegation's statement came after a 20-minute conference call of a majority of its members.

Bustamante, the only top Democrat on the recall ballot, has said that he too opposes the recall, but wants Democrats to be ready in case Davis is ousted on October 7.

The governor has been fighting hard to convince party leaders and constituencies to oppose the recall and remain neutral on who should succeed him.

The most prominent advocates of that position are Sen. Dianne Feinstein, state Democratic Chairman Art Torres and state AFL-CIO chief Art Pulaski.

In the delegation's statement, Lofgren emphasized the group's opposition to the recall, saying it is "plunging California into political and economic uncertainty it can't afford."

Lofgren praised Bustamante as an "independent, highly qualified, committed public servant." The statement said nothing about Davis.

On Thursday, Bustamante also picked up the endorsement of the California Teachers Association. It is the fifth state union to endorse his candidacy.

CNN Political Editor John Mercurio and Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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