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A ‘Magic’ day for Davis

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Tuesday March 26, 2002

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson endorsed Gov. Gray Davis in an East Bay appearance Monday afternoon. 

“I believe in him. I know him personally,” said Johnson, speaking at the Poplar Community Recreation Center on Union Street in West Oakland. “He is the right man to carry us for another four years.” 

“I’m honored to have you on the team,” said Davis, who is running for re-election in November against Republican nominee Bill Simon. “You can play any position you want.” 

Davis went on to tout his record on the economy and education, noting that 190,000 students received scholarships to attend state universities through his Cal Grant program last year. 

Johnson, who endorsed Davis at a similar Los Angeles event earlier in the day, praised the governor for providing African-American youth with opportunities to attend college and argued that Republicans have not done enough. 

“Over and over again, they haven’t delivered,” said Johnson, of the Republicans. “They only call us when they need us, and right now they need us.” 

The Simon campaign did not return calls for comment before the Planet’s deadline. 

Community members who attended the invite-only event peppered Davis and Johnson with questions on local issues, from jobs for Oakland residents on the Bay Bridge construction project, to Johnson’s plans for investment in Oakland. 

Oakland Vice-Mayor Larry Reid asked Davis to encourage contractors to hire Oakland residents for the construction of a new Bay Bridge span, expected to generate about 67,000 jobs over the five-year life of the project. 

According to Reid, Davis offered, after the event, to set up a meeting with city officials and representatives from Caltrans, the statewide transportation agency, to address the issue. 

Johnson, who owns several several movie theaters and Starbucks cafes in depressed areas, maintains a Starbucks cafe in the Fruitvale section of Oakland. 

Johnson said he is looking into expanded investment in West Oakland and the entire Bay Area.