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Denham recall getting closer to the ballot

Signatures continue to be counted in the effort to boot state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, from office.

Stanislaus County submitted a projection of 10,144 valid signatures to the Secretary of State’s office Friday morning and Monterey County reported another 7,902 signatures that still need to be verified.

Merced's figures still need haven't been received by the state, though they are estimated to be at 11,000.

Once Secretary of State Debra Bowen certifies the count, it’s up to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to send it to voters. It’s unclear if it would make the June ballot.

What began as an unsuccessful political jab by Democrats in August to get Denham to vote for the state’s budget is now a full-bore recall campaign that will force the local leader to campaign for his job while also trying to do it.

Gearing up for the fight, the “Friends of Jeff Denham Against the Recall” committee filed a $50,000 contribution from Oakhurst’s Sierra Tel Communication group Friday, according to public records. The check brings the committee’s account balance to $355,049.

No Democratic challengers have been named, though a few names have been floated around, including Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas, who served in the Assembly between 2000 and 2006.

Denham’s camp has been hiring staff and is ready to explain to the voters why he should remain in office, focusing on the senator being punished for voting his conscience and also the recall’s connection to Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

Seizing on the estimated $16 billion budget crisis, Democrats are primed to trot out the cuts in education and ones that may be on the way as reasons to oust Denham, who’s been seen as education-friendly.