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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
California hopefuls in first debate
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Schwarzenegger was working the crowd when an egg hit his jacket
California Governor Gray Davis and some of the candidates hoping to replace him in next month's recall election have held their first TV debate.

Mr Davis admitted that he made mistakes, during a forum with voters that was followed by a separate discussion among the other contenders.

The Democratic governor's main Republican rival, Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, did not take part.

Instead, the actor-turned-politician addressed student at a university campus where he got hit with an egg.

The Wednesday debate in Walnut Creek outside San Francisco started with a 30-minute questioning of Mr Davis by journalists and the audience.

I know they're angry. This has been a humbling experience
Governor Gray Davis
The governor, who has been facing widespread discontent over the state's financial crisis, said it was "not fun" being constantly damned, and promised to listen to voters in the future.

"I've got the message," he said. "I know they're angry. This has been a humbling experience."

Mr Davis then left the stage to five candidates. Several attacked the leading Democrat trying to replace Mr Davis, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, for taking campaign contributions from Indian casinos.

"This is nothing but legalised bribery," said independent candidate and television commentator Arianna Huffington.

Keeping cool

Mr Bustamante, who is leading in the most recent polls, defended his ties to Indian tribes, saying his relationship pre-dated the introduction of Indian casinos.

Governor Gray Davis
Davis is fighting for his political life
Republicans State Senator Tom McClintock and businessman Peter Ueberroth stressed the need to attract more investors to the state.

Meanwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger - the highest profile of the replacement candidates - delivered his first major speech of the campaign at California State University in Long Beach, near Los Angeles.

But as he was walking through the crowd on his way to the stage he was hit by an egg.

An aide tried to wipe it off, but the actor took off his coat and went ahead with his address.

Mr Schwarzenegger asked rhetorically: "You have such a fantastic life, Arnold, you make millions of dollars to do movies and all those kinds of things, why do you want to do this?

"And you know something, because everything that I've gotten - my career, my money, my family - everything that I've gotten and achieved is because of California."

The debate is the first of three scheduled so far in advance of the 7 October vote. Mr Schwarzenegger has agreed to participate in only one debate, on 24 September.


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