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California recall roster includes Kawaiisu candidate

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - There is no shortage of candidates for California's scheduled Oct. 7 recall election. As of Aug. 20 there were 135 certified candidates with at least a few dozen more pending certification from the California Secretary of State's office.

With so many candidates it is hard for the media to focus on more than a few front runners. High profile candidates, such as action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, noted columnist and author Arianna Huffington and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, have been getting the overwhelming majority of the media attention in this state and have been deemed by that same media as "serious" candidates.

However, almost lost in the shuffle of a roster of candidates that includes former child star Gary Coleman and past-his-prime comedian Gallagher are several candidates who are at least earnest and possess better credentials than some of the "serious" candidates.

David Laughing Horse Robinson believes that he is one such candidate. Though he has received scant media attention and his name does not even register in the polls, Robinson, who simply likes to be called Horse, is receiving some support from some quarters of California's non-federally recognized tribes.

He is, however, not receiving any support in the form of financial backing and has not garnered any support from any of the large casino owning tribes in Southern California.

He does, however, claim to have the support of the Coyote Valley tribe in Northern California who have a small gaming operation, though calls to their tribal headquarters to confirm this were not returned.

Robinson, 48, is running as a Democrat. Currently he is an art instructor at California State University, Bakersfield as well as the chairman of the unrecognized Kawaiisu Tribe since 1997. He is also married with two children and has two grandchildren.

Robinson is the only American Indian running for governor. As far as research can determine, no American Indian has ever served as a state governor.

The main gist of his campaign, says Robinson, is to "deregulate people," saying that he wants to promote small business through tax breaks and stop the power of big business on politics.

However, Robinson balks at the anti-corporate label and rails against the loss of corporate offices to other states, while they extract California resources.

Robinson criticizes Gov. Davis for not going far enough to end the energy crisis. He claims to be an opponent of the energy deregulation that sent the state into crisis two years ago and says he would end all deregulation of utilities.

High on his agenda, says Robinson, is education. He believes that his experience as an educator provides him with a unique perspective into the state's troubled educational system. He believes that education from "kindergarten through PhD" should be free as they are in western Europe.

Robinson feels that forcing people to pay for education adversely affects low-income people thus creating a cycle of poverty. He cites a statistic that he recently read that claims nearly half of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

Another area where Robinson would like to emulate the western European model is in regard to health care, which he believes should be universal. Robinson calls for a credit card format that would carry medical insurance.

"People have a right to health care, and the state has an obligation to provide it," says Robinson.

In terms of Indian issues, Robinson says that he wants to overturn Public Law 280, the law that gives states rights over tribal law enforcement. In other areas of law enforcement Robinson says that there needs to be a shift in focus where police get out of their cars and walk the streets.

In regard to the casino tribes, Robinson says that he would be a governor that would treat tribes as sovereign governments and deal with them fairly. He contends that too many politicians are only interested in lining their own campaign accounts and will only deal with tribes as far as they are able to pay.

Robinson also maintains that tribes need to make sure that they are good neighbors to their communities and says that as governor, he would work with tribes to make sure they maintain good relations with surrounding communities.

Though a Democrat, Robinson says that he believes that some Republican proposals are good and takes aim at the Democrats in the state for overspending the state's budget surplus in the late 1990s. He advocates a flat tax that begins with a $30,000 income and is locked in at 10 percent thereafter and a fixed $75 for vehicle registration. The latter proposal is in reaction to Gov. Davis' announcement that he would triple vehicle registration fees to help close the state's $8 billion budget deficit.

Finally, Robinson cites his experience in tribal politics as a solid foundation for the governor's office, experience that he says gives him better qualification for the office than Republican front runner Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I know that I'm more qualified than he is."

The campaign has been of the shoestring variety thus far. Robinson's wife, Kate, is busy behind the scenes traveling up and down the state to arrange meetings with groups and personal appearances at upcoming events. She describes the whole process as "grassroots" and claims that individual funding is beginning to come in, though she would not say how much.

In the time honored tradition of long shot politicians, Robinson and his wife are both upbeat about his chances though he has thus far only garnered minimal support. Kate Robinson perhaps best sums up the hopeful mood that seems endemic to baseball teams in the spring and politicians in the early campaign.

"Our kind of funding and campaign is not what you see from seasoned politicians."