By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Del Norte County Democrats rallied together and opened their pocketbooks last night when California's first lady Sharon Davis arrived to campaign for party candidates.

andquot;It's great to be here with diehard Democrats, which you'd have to be to be here - oh, and a few good Republicans,andquot; Davis said as she addressed the 200-plus dinner guests.

Davis, the wife of Governor Gray Davis, flew in last night from Yreka to raise campaign funds for Senate candidate Marianne Smith (D-Nevada City) and Assembly candidate Patty Berg (D-Eureka). Gray Davis is seeking reelection in a heated contest with Republican Bill Simon.

Mike McKenzie-Bahr, Chair of the Del Norte County Democratic Central Committee, said Berg was unable to attend last night due to a prior engagement. Smith, however, joined Davis at the $25-per-plate dinner hosted by the Elk Valley Rancheria Tribal Council.

andquot;I just want to let people in Del Norte County know that I am out there and I am working for your votes,andquot; Smith said.

Davis, who never mentioned her husband by name, made comparisons between Democratic and Republican leadership in the state.

andquot;California is doing well and jobs are plentiful,andquot; she said. andquot;But people are saying, 'Hey, what about the deficit?' That deficit was caused by a slowdown in the stock market.andquot;

Davis also credited her husband for creating more infrastructure to accommodate a growing state population, getting more children aid from Medi-Cal and increasing the efficiency of public schools.

andquot;When my husband took over, California schools were near the bottom all across the board. He increased spending by 30 percent, which meant more training for teachers and principals. Test scores are up, as of tomorrow, for four years in a row,andquot; Davis said.

andquot;The big difference between Democratic leadership and Republican leadership with schools is the Democrats go forward, while Republicans are saying 'Dump the public schools' and are supporting things like vouchers,andquot; she said.

Davis also defended her husband's track record in dealing with the state energy crisis last year.

andquot;Everyone in the Legislature supported that (the deregulation of the power industry). They said, 'Yes, this will be great. It will lower our electric bills,'andquot; said Davis. andquot;And what many people don't know is when (former-Governor) Pete Wilson made sure the utility companies sold half of their power plants in the state to places like Texas.andquot;

Davis said her husband protected Californians last year when he signed a contract with power wholesalers at a fixed long-term price, which some critics now claim is too high.

andquot;Governor Davis protected you from a 400-percent increase that would have been set by out-of-state power plants,andquot; she said, adding that Gray Davis is responsible for improved power distribution in the state. andquot;Just this week, we had 100-degree temperatures from the Oregon border to San Diego and there were no power outages. Was that an accident? No. It's leadership from Democrats.andquot;

Davis is scheduled to continue her campaign appearances in Colusa and in Chico today.