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California Democrats Endorse Bustamante in Case Recall Succeeds

California’s Democratic House delegation on Thursday endorsed Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D) for governor as a fallback in case their state’s recall effort succeeds in ousting Gov. Gray Davis (D) from office.

The 33-member delegation, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), came to the unanimous decision on a conference call today, the fourth in as many weeks. Two-thirds of the Members participated in the call.

The move means the Golden State Members will follow a complicated two-tiered approach to the recall: opposing the move to knock out Davis, but at the same time supporting Bustamante on the ballot in case the effort prevails.

“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,” the delegation said in a statement.

Sources have said the Members will use their status to educate and encourage Californians to follow their lead on the October ballot. Bustamante is the most prominent Democrat in the crowded field of candidates for governor.

“Lt. Gov. Bustamante was duly elected just 10 months ago to take over the governor’s job if a vacancy occurred in that office,” the Democratic Members said, adding that he is a highly qualified and committed public servant.

On the Republican side, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considered the leading candidate and has captured about half of the California GOP delegation’s support.

Schwarzenegger has been leading in the latest polls in a head-to-head match-up against Bustamante.

Earlier this month, the California Democrats came out publicly to unanimously oppose the recall itself. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, five Members had individually endorsed Bustamante: Reps. Joe Baca, Dennis Cardoza, Cal Dooley, Brad Sherman and Diane Watson.