ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Former Gov. Pete Wilson urged his fellow Republicans on Saturday not to make light of a recall drive against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
He told delegates at the California Republican Party's fall convention that they should take the threat from the state prison guards union seriously, even if it isn't likely to succeed.
"I hope that I don't have to tell you what an ill-considered idea that is. We did it once; we did not do it lightly," he said, referring to the 2003 recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, an election that sent Schwarzenegger to Sacramento. "It is something that should not be taken lightly. It is an extreme measure."
A conservative wing of the state GOP had planned to vote later Saturday on whether to endorse the recall campaign but instead decided to further investigate the effort first.
In his lunchtime speech to about 250 delegates, Wilson did not directly address the rift between the politically moderate Schwarzenegger and others in his party. Schwarzenegger also avoided the topic during brief remarks to about 300 party members and supporters Friday night.
The governor's unpopularity with the most conservative Republicans grew this summer after he proposed a temporary increase in the state's sales tax to help close what was then a $15.2 billion deficit. Wilson was critical of the tax plan, as were Republicans in the Legislature who successfully fought the effort.
That proposal particularly rankled rank-and-file Republicans, California Republican Assembly president Mike Spence said earlier this week.
"We're talking about a core, central policy that has united the party - taxes - and the governor went back on his word," Spence said.
Frustration with Schwarzenegger within the party's base was widespread, he said. That's partly because he has failed to implement many of the government reforms he promised when taking office, Spence said, pointing to the budget deficits that continue to plague the state.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association filed formal notice this month of its effort to recall Schwarzenegger. The union criticized Schwarzenegger for what it called "catastrophic leadership failings and inept management" since he took office.
One of the motivations for recalling Davis was his deal giving prison guards a 37 percent pay raise after he had accepted $2.6 million in campaign donations from the union.
Schwarzenegger has not taken money from the prison guards and has called its recall drive a political ploy designed to pressure him to give into the union's demands during contract negotiations. The guards union has been without a contract for two years.
After his address, Wilson told reporters that there will always be disagreements with a governor, but that a recall should be reserved for "serious dereliction of duty."
"It's something that you do on a really extreme provocation," he said.
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