LOS ANGELES — Arnold Schwarzenegger called on Republicans to unite behind him for governor Saturday as Democrats staged their own dramatic show of party unity.
Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appeared together for the first time since Bustamante broke his pledge and entered the race to succeed Davis if he is recalled.
The surprise joint appearance came as the state Democratic Party voted, as expected, to endorse Bustamante's "No on recall, yes on Bustamante" strategy for the Oct. 7 recall election. The issues of whether Davis should be recalled, and who should replace him if he is, are separate ballot questions.
"I am not in competition with Gray Davis. I'm running against Arnold and Tom," Bustamante said in his speech to delegates, referring to Schwarzenegger and the other top Republican challenger, state Sen. Tom McClintock. "I believe that my name would be a positive option for Democrats on the second part of the ballot, and I thank you for embracing that option."
Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, addressed a state Republican convention crowd divided over whether to back the socially moderate actor or support the more conservative McClintock, who is in line with the party faithful on issues such as abortion and guns but is widely viewed as unlikely to beat Bustamante.
Schwarzenegger sought to reassure party activists that he is one of them. He repeatedly described himself as a conservative, proclaimed, "I love the Republican Party," and invoked the state's most beloved GOP figure.
"In 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a speech called 'A Time for Choosing.' That is what we face here today," the action star told the crowd of more than 500 at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.
"We as Republicans have a choice to make: Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided? Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles or let the liberals win because we are split? Are we going to fight Davis and Bustamante or are we going to fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory."
The speech did not mention McClintock, who was to speak to delegates Saturday evening.
The lawmaker has shown no sign of dropping out. "I'm in this race to the finish line," he said at a pro-recall rally Saturday in Long Beach.
"I think if Schwarzenegger's campaign spent a fraction of the time studying the issues that they have been trying to muscle me out of the race, they'd be in much better shape today," McClintock told reporters after speaking at the rally.
Some Republican delegates who like McClintock said they have to be realistic in choosing whom to support.
Dottie Van Eckhardt, a delegate from Yuba City, called McClintock "a lovely man" but said she was supporting Schwarzenegger.
"I think McClintock probably is more experienced, but Arnold can win," she said.
At the Los Angeles Convention Center, 85 percent of more than 600 Democratic delegates voted to endorse Bustamante. The party had voted in March to oppose Davis' recall, but the issue of who should replace the governor if he is ousted is a separate question on the ballot.
Davis spoke before the vote, with Bustamante scheduled afterward, and the men, who have had a bitter relationship for years, had not been expected to meet. The stunned audience of about 1,000 stood and erupted in applause after Bustamante took the stage in the middle of the governor's speech.
"People wanted to see us stand together, so here we are," Davis said.
Several prominent Democrats already had endorsed Bustamante's presence on the second part of the ballot as a logical "safety net" if Davis loses. In recent campaign appearances, Bustamante has focused less on opposing the recall and more on his own candidacy, angering some labor leaders and other core Democratic supporters.
Bustamante's appearance with Davis seemed to be an attempt to heal any rift within the party.
Davis' speech Saturday signaled a strategy shift in which the governor would campaign more aggressively against Schwarzenegger and McClintock.
"Over the past few weeks, I have seen Republican candidates run down this great state for their own partisan advantage," Davis told the crowd. "But I have news for them: Your campaign of distortion and deception stops right here.
"To borrow a phrase from a California Republican president, 'Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Schwarzenegger."' Davis said.
Schwarzenegger has stressed the state's budget deficit — once more than $38 billion but now reduced to an estimated $8 billion — and in a television commercial said the state is spending $29 million a day more than it is collecting.
Earlier this week, however, state Finance Director Steve Peace said that in July and August the state took in more revenue than it spent, although that is partly due to heavy borrowing.
On Sunday, Davis will campaign with former President Clinton. Later in the week several other prominent Democrats will head to California this week to support the governor.
Contributing: Beth Fouhy.