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New poll shows growing support for recall of California governor

A majority of voters believe Gov. Gray Davis should be recalled in a special election, according to a poll published Friday, hours after recall leaders claimed they had enough support to put the question on the ballot.

The Los Angeles Times statewide poll of 1,412 adults, 1,127 of them registered voters, found 51 percent want Davis ousted, while 42 percent would reject a recall. The rest said they didn't know what to do.

Many pointed to the state's $38-billion fiscal crisis as the reason Davis should be removed. Others gave the Democrat poor ratings on education and energy.

"I find it incredible that when he took office we had a surplus in this state, and now we're in the hole," Teri Hoerntlein, a 37-year-old San Bernardino County independent, told the newspaper. "If this were a private business, we would have had to declare bankruptcy."

Despite the increasing support for removing Davis _ a Los Angeles Times poll in March had found 39 percent of voters favored a recall _ many of those in Friday's poll lost their enthusiasm once they learned a special election would cost at least $25-million.

The latest Los Angeles Times poll was conducted from June 28 to July 2. Both polls had margins of sampling error of 3 percentage points.

Whether the recall goes to a special election will come down to the signatures on the petitions.

By law, backers need 897,158 validated signatures of registered voters by July 16 to put the question to voters this fall. Ted Costa, coordinator of the Republican-led signature drive, said Thursday that just more than 1-million signatures had been turned over to counties for validation.

Opponents were skeptical and noted state officials had yet to validate the signatures.

"The rhetoric has yet to match the reality," said Carroll Wills, spokesman for Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall.

Opponents said they had 1.1-million signatures on petitions opposing the recall, though those petitions would have no legal effect.

As for a possible replacement for Davis, the poll found the most support for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., followed by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who lost the Republican primary last year, when Davis was re-elected. Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger trailed, with more than half of those polled saying they wouldn't vote for him.