Governor race gets new light

Published September 22, 2001. Copyright, Associated Press.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The California governor's race should be in full swing by now, but last week's terrorist attacks have overshadowed the quest for the largest political prize in next year's state elections.

As the candidates begin to resume their campaigns, they must decide whether to adopt new approaches for an electorate whose priorities have shifted as the nation prepares for an extended campaign against terrorists.

The long-term effects for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the three potential Republican candidates are hard to assess. But among the potential consequences is a less-partisan campaign, focused on questions of leadership and public safety.

"This isn't in the manual,'' said Dan Schnur, head of an exploratory committee for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who is expected to announce next month that he will seek the Republican nomination.

Political analysts expect the devastating attacks on New York and the Pentagon to be on voters' minds when they head to polls for the March primary and November general election.

"I suspect that people will take a lot of interest in what the candidates have to say,'' said Kim Alexander, president of the non-profit California Voter Foundation. "There's consensus that a terrible tragedy has befallen our country, but there's not a consensus about where we go from here, and it will be up to our political leaders to guide us down a wise path.''

Effects of the attacks already have rippled through the governor's race.

Dozens of fundraisers and events were canceled or postponed, among them the state GOP convention, important for the Republican hopefuls. The convention, scheduled for last weekend in Los Angeles, will instead be a one-day event Oct. 27.

Los Angeles businessman William E. Simon Jr. postponed the official announcement of his candidacy for the Republican nomination, originally scheduled for Sept. 13.

During the 1990 governor's race, some political analysts believed Republican Sen. Pete Wilson was helped and Democrat Dianne Feinstein was hurt by the fact that America was on the brink of war in the Persian Gulf.

Voters might have associated Wilson with forces of law and order more than they did Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco, analysts said.

But in this case, a war or ongoing national crisis could be just as likely to help the Democratic candidate because he is the incumbent, analysts said.

Copyright © Associated Press

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