a suitable republican candidate at last

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    Schwarzenegger files California candidacy

    Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made his California gubernatorial candidacy official as the deadline to join the election looms, telling chanting supporters he would be "the people's governor".

    The Austrian-born action film star and political novice, a Republican, has quickly come to be regarded as the front-runner in the October 7 election to replace the unpopular Democrat Gray Davis.

    But his appearance came in between those of two other prominent candidates, columnist Arianna Huffington and businessman Bill Simon, who also showed up at the same southern California county elections office to complete paperwork and pay the $3,500 filing fee.

    In a sign of the circus-like quality the unprecedented election has assumed, Ms Huffington, the one-time Republican conservative turned political populist, apparently timed her appearance to coincide with Mr Schwarzenegger's, forcing him to wait while she spoke to reporters.

    "This is called synchronicity. It's perfect timing. There's going to be a lot of perfect timing in this election," Ms Huffington joked before taking a swipe at Mr Schwarzenegger for driving a gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle.

    Mr Schwarzenegger, for his part, was accompanied by his wife Maria Shriver, a television journalist and member of the prominent Democratic Kennedy family who made an unusual appeal on behalf of her husband.

    She described him as a "serious, compassionate, and smart" candidate "who would represent Democrats, Republicans and independents across the state".

    Several other candidates are also expected to jump into the race ahead of the filing deadline, joining an already large group who are vying to become California's next governor in an unprecedented recall election to replace Govenor Davis.

    Along with Mr Simon, the prominent Republican who was defeated by Govenor Davis in 2002, others who have joined the race include Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, porn magazine publisher Larry Flynt, Hollywood actress Angelyne and former child star Gary Coleman.

    Although Govenor Davis is aggressively campaigning to defeat the recall, the rising number of candidates that includes some prominent Democrats, is raising more doubts he will be able to stay in office.

    Democratic insurance commissioner John Garamendi has withdrawn from the race.

    Voters who go to the polls on October 7 will be asked to vote twice - first, on whether Govenor Davis should be recalled, then on who should be the next governor in the event Govenor Davis is recalled.

    Govenor Davis has seen his popularity steadily sink in the wake of the state's power crisis two years ago as well as a recent fiscal crisis that has taken California's deficit to record highs.

    The unusual nature of the recall election has enabled some Democrats like Mr Bustamante to continue to show loyalty for the besieged governor even as they compete for his job.

    But Mr Schwarzenegger's decision to run upset the political order and raised doubts that established politicians from either party will be able to compete against the world famous actor.

    Mr Schwarzenegger has to date been vague about his campaign platform but described himself as an economic conservative and a social moderate, and played on his immigrant roots and his real life rags-to-riches story.

    "When I arrived here in 1968 from Austria, that's the last think I thought, that one day I would be running to be the governor of California," he said.

    "I promise you that I will be the people's governor."

 
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