Nearly 160 people have tossed their hats, beads or tutus into the three-ring circus of California politics, but the morning after the filing deadline to be the state's replacement governor the talk of the town was of just one candidate: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While the headliners and lesser lights of California politics -- including Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante; Arianna Huffington, the author and radio personality; and Senator Dianne Feinstein -- used the Sunday morning talk show circuit to plot their positions in relation to Schwarzenegger's lodestar, he stayed silent.
Admonished by his advisers not to make news out of the box, Schwarzenegger left his campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, the former California governor, to attack Davis as an incompetent spendthrift, and lesser political minions to explain his personal finances to a press corps demanding details, any details.
Sean Walsh, a spokesman for the Schwarzenegger campaign, released tax statements Sunday afternoon showing that Schwarzenegger is a rich man.
His tax returns show that his gross adjusted income for 2000 and 2001 was slightly more than US$57 million. For that period, Schwarzenegger owned at least ten stock and bond portfolios worth more than US$1 million each. His interests include real estate, a racetrack, an Ohio shopping mall and commercial aircraft.
Walsh said Schwarzenegger had not decided whether he would place his holdings in a blind trust if elected.
Schwarzenegger's financial documents describe not just what he has earned but also how he has shared his wealth.
In 2000, he gave a 1934 Bentley valued at US$41,500 and a 1996 Humvee valued at US$86,000 to the Inner-City Games Foundation, which runs after-school programs. The following year he donated a house in Santa Monica appraised at more than US$2 million to the Roman Catholic church.
Schwarzenegger is fond of reminding voters of his history as a penniless Austrian farmboy who became one of Hollywood's highest-paid entertainers. But on Sunday, Art Torres, chairman of the California state Democratic Party, challenged Wilson on Schwarzenegger's rags-to-riches immigrant story and ridiculed Schwarzenegger as no friend of the immigrant.
Torres reminded voters on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that Schwarzenegger had once stumped for Wilson, the sponsor of Proposition 187, a successful ballot initiative barring illegal immigrants from receiving state services. The measure was eventually struck down in state appellate court.
"Arnold did support it," Wilson confirmed, noting that about 60 percent of the state's electorate had supported the proposition, too. "Mr. Torres and the Democrats are trying to play the race card," Wilson said.
When Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy last week, it sent the Democrats into disarray. An agreement to offer no alternative to Davis and instead present a united front to beat back the recall fell apart as two prominent Democrats joined the race.
But in an 11th-hour compromise on Saturday, John Garamendi, the state insurance commissioner, pulled out, leaving Bustamante as the sole sanctioned Democratic option.
Democratic strategists are betting that the presence of Bustamante, the first statewide Latino officeholder in 100 years, will draw Hispanics to the polls to vote no on the recall, as Bustamante is urging them to do.