New recall attempt in Calif.

Physician files paperwork to begin an effort to force a vote on Schwarzenegger

October 09, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BERKELEY, CALIF. // Until recently, Dr. Kenneth Matsumura's most notable achievement was inventing an artificial liver that makes use of live rabbit cells suspended in solution. He says he also has a patent on a wristwatch that sounds an alarm before the wearer has a heart attack.

But on Friday, Matsumura showed up at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office in Sacramento and delivered a formal notice of a recall against the governor. Now Matsumura, a 60-year-old physician from Berkeley, is being depicted as the Terminator's terminator among Schwarzenegger's partisan detractors.

"I've never met him, but I intend to," said Art Torres, chairman of the state Democratic Party. "People are very interested in it. This is one way for people to express frustration and anger with the governor's policies."

Though still about a million signatures from forcing a vote on Schwarzenegger's fate, many Democrats feel the pain of the recall of Gov. Gray Davis two years ago and would like nothing better than payback for the Republican who replaced him. Schwarzenegger announced last month that he would run for re-election in November 2006.

Torres said that "there was a lot of excitement" about Matsumura's effort among members of the party's executive board, and he predicted Democrats would help circulate the petitions for signatures.

But Schwarzenegger and his aides said they were not concerned. In a recent telephone interview, the governor said he was too focused on campaigning for several measures on the ballot in a special election next month to track Matsumura's doings.

"I pay very little attention to those kind of things," Schwarzenegger said. "The people have sent me to Sacramento to fix a broken system, and now I need their help in order to do it."

Matsumura said he had never been active politically and did not know whether he was registered as a Democrat or Republican, describing himself as an independent who is a "fiscal conservative."

But since announcing in late September that he intended to organize a recall and starting a Web site, Matsumura said he has had little time for anything but politics. On his trip to Sacramento on Friday, he made his commitment official by filing the required paperwork with the secretary of state's office, which, if verified as complete, would begin a process that Matsumura hopes will culminate in a recall vote in June.

"My wife is hoping more and more volunteers will come and we can have more spokespeople," Matsumura said. "More than that, my patients are not going to be happy my attention is wavering."

Matsumura said he was moved to try a recall by the struggles many poor people, including some of his patients, have had in making ends meet. He said he was disappointment in Schwarzenegger's inability to solve the state's problems, especially its budget shortfalls.

"When I started this, I said, `Wow, this is a long shot, this is really going to be hard,'" Matsumura said. "But when I went to the county hospital and began circulating the petition, I was mobbed. People are just clamoring to sign this."

Schwarzenegger had barely taken the oath of office in November 2003 when some Democrats began talking about a counter-recall. But the idea was quickly dropped, in part because of Schwarzenegger's popularity, a reluctance to appear to be poor losers and a notion that the state was not ready for more turmoil.

Since then, Schwarzenegger's approval ratings have collapsed. A poll released Thursday by the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University showed that 36 percent of voters approved of his job performance. Still, Democratic efforts have focused on defeating Schwarzenegger's programs in the Legislature and in the election next month.

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