In an apparent effort to give Republican candidate Bill Simon, Jr., an edge over incumbent Gray Davis (D) in the California governor race, the Bush administration questioned Davis’ commitment to protect his state’s coastline and agreed to work with Simon to end offshore drilling. After visiting the White House yesterday, Simon said he had won the administration’s support for negotiating an end to oil rigs on the California coast. Moreover, he walked away from the visit with a letter from Interior Secretary Gale Norton stating that Davis had played a role in approving 193 offshore oil wells. Davis and his supporters rejected that claim, saying the governor had no legal discretion to block the drilling. And they challenged both Simon’s and the White House’s commitment to ending such drilling, since both have close ties to the oil industry. “I’m not so sure that Californians want an oil-and-gas man like Bill Simon and an oil-and-gas administration negotiating on offshore drilling in California,” said Davis reelection campaign spokesman Roger Salazar.
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