CA reputation impacted as recall media frenzy grows

SACRAMENTO: The media frenzy surrounding the attempt to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) has left both sides scrambling to gain advantage heading into the expected ballot measure this October.

SACRAMENTO: The media frenzy surrounding the attempt to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) has left both sides scrambling to gain advantage heading into the expected ballot measure this October.

Recall supporters' efforts have focused on rallies in Sacramento featuring Republicans eager to replace Davis.

Democrats and Davis supporters are attempting to portray the recall effort as a GOP coup that has unnecessarily thrown the state's politics into turmoil.

"It's a chaotic situation that reflects poorly on our system," said Steve Maviglio, Davis' press secretary. "It has reduced investor confidence in the state and in our bonds on Wall Street. It's starting to look like a banana republic. The good news is that it's a short election. But in the interim, it's going to be a feeding frenzy."

Media coverage has delved into every dark corner of this year's biggest political story - from Davis' plummeting approval ratings, to the minutiae of the budget approval process, to whether movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger would enter the gubernatorial race.

Recently there have even been reports of cracks in the Democrats united-front against the recall effort, as two Democratic representatives have been urging Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to run.

Some who closely watch the state's image argue that the political tug-of-war has helped give California a black eye.

"In my 25-plus years in Sacramento, I've never seen more national and international media in the capital," said Jami Warner, EVP and GM of Edelman's Sacramento office. "This is the third huge image destroyer that has hit California, after the energy crisis and budget crisis."

This feeling was highlighted in July, when Newsweek featured a cover story with a screaming headline "California in Crisis."

"Our clients on both coasts are concerned," said Warner. "We have events, media tours, and analyst tours that will be impacted by the media attention. And there is concern about what impact this will have on the business climate."

Rich Halberg, VP and deputy director of Hill & Knowlton's public affairs practice, said that while the attention looks bad, the state will prevail. Time ran a 1992 story with a headline similar to Newsweek's, he said, and the state went on to help drive the US' economic recovery.

"The attention is a bit more dramatic because of the size and scale of the state and our economy," said Halberg, but he added, "California's reputation as a hotbed of innovation won't be affected."

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