SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Labor and other progressive organizations are denouncing a recall petition bankrolled by extremist Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) aimed at ousting Gov. Gray Davis as a blatant power grab.

Issa has poured more than $2 million of his car alarm fortune into hiring 200 professional signature gatherers who were paid $1 for every signature on the petition calling for a special election. The ultra-right, Republican-backed “Rescue California” announced July 16 that 1.6 million signatures have been gathered to put the confusing and complex question on the ballot.

Voters would be confronted with two questions: first, whether Davis should be removed, and second, who should replace him. If ten or more candidates qualify by paying a fee, a candidate with as little as 15 percent of the vote could walk away with the California governor’s office.

The California State Building and Construction Trades, AFL-CIO, denounced the recall as a scheme “to allow right-wing Republicans like Issa to sneak into the governor’s office through the back door.”

The recall scheme “seeks to subvert last year’s legitimate election and replace it with a phony election effort. … Even if the money contributed to the recall by Issa proves to be legal, his motives are devious and ignores the wishes of California voters.”

The labor statement adds, “Issa wants to turn back the clock on California unions and get rid of the eight-hour day, daily overtime, unemployment insurance, workers compensation benefits, Project Labor Agreements and all the hard-fought victories earned by unions since Gov. Davis took office. We can’t let that happen.”

The union leaders pointed out that Davis “has the best record for unions of any governor of California in decades. The recall is not about Davis. The recall is an attempt by the Republicans to have a second shot at last year’s election at the expense of the voters.”

The Bush Republicans have been setting the stage for this crisis for years, starting with energy deregulation rammed through by former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and now aggravated by California’s $28 billion budget deficit. Budgets must be approved by two-thirds majorities so even though the legislature is majority Democrat, the GOP has been able to block any resolution of the crisis.

Taxpayers Against the Governor’s Recall points out that Issa, who represents a district in Southern California, seeks to outlaw abortions, opposes the minimum wage and overtime pay, wants to overturn the ban on assault weapons, favors drilling for oil off the coast of California, and opposes affirmative action.

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante said, “I will not participate in any other way than to urge voters to reject this perversion of the recall process. … The will of many should not be set aside for the ambition of the few.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, “We don’t need the distraction of a mean-spirited recall that will only divide our state further and make finding solutions that much more difficult.”

Even the California Business Roundtable opposed the recall on grounds it would add to the crisis and paralysis, pushing the state’s economy further into recession.