by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
October 7, 2003
IT'S GOV. ARNOLD; DAVIS 'TERMINATED' BY WIDE MARGIN
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 7, 2003 -- California voters turned out in record numbers Tuesday to oust Gov. Gray Davis by a margin of about 8 percentage points and elect Arnold Schwarzenegger as his replacement in the first successful recall of a sitting American governor since 1908. Network exit polls and late returns showed recall succeeding by about 54 to 46 percent, and with 97.1 percent of precincts reporting Schwarzenegger was getting about 50,000 more votes than Davis got against the recall, thus winning this strategic but unusual version of the popular vote.
"There's so many people that I want to thank, but I want to start first with my wife, Maria," Schwarzenegger said in a 10:302pm victory statement in Los Angeles, with the NBC News star gleaming beside him. "I know how many votes I got today because of you." Much of Maria Shriver's branch of the Kennedy family stood with the couple.
Maria Shriver had been a stalwart at the new governor's side as he faced mounting criticism of his admitted improprieties towards women. Women supported the actor with about 42 percent of their vote, while 47 percent opposed him, exit polls showed. About 49 percent of male voters supported Schwarzenegger, the exit polls said.
Schwarzenegger's victory speech was short, strong and persuasively sincere in addressing both his supporters and the state's pressing budgetary problems.
"From the time I came over to this country you have opened up your arms to me," he said to the people of California. "... Everything I have I owe to California ... California has given me the greatest gift of all. ... You have given me your trust, voting for me. I will not disappoint you. I will not let you down," he promised. He also praised Davis for "a gracious telephone call" promising his administration's help in the days of transition ahead.
"I have heard your choice loud and clear," he said, aiming at the "special interests" he said have dominated the state's priorities.. "... For the people to win, politics as usual must lose," he said.
"I know together we can make this the greatest state in the greatest country in the world," Schwarzenegger said, closing his speech by planting a kiss on the cheeks of Eunice Shriver, the sister of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Schwarzenegger, the network forecasters say, won by a wide margin over Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante - by as much as 700,000 votes in one early tabulation of results. The final results of the election will not be certified by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley for weeks, but the state's top Democratic Party official, State Democratic Party chairman Art Torres, said the party will not mount a legal challenge to the results. Schwarzenegger will probably not take office for three weeks or more.
Torres, a distinguished-looking former state senator who has gamely defied the predictions that came true today in countless talk show appearances, agreed that "anger at this governor" was the principal cause of the rarest kind of voter revolt. Recalls have been mounted at least 31 times since Gov. Hiram Johnson added the recall process to the state's constitution 92 years ago, with all failing until this one (the lone recall of a governor occurred in North Dakota in 1908).
Television has been a powerful instrument in the short campaign, filling the airwaves with news of the ups and downs, offs and ons and slightly lunatic character of the election as it progressed from a disparaged remote possibility to a here-and-now reality that seized the attention and imagination of the world because of the actor's global stature as an action star.
It was fitting, then, that at the victory celebration "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno introduced Schwarzenegger - who announced his candidacy on Leno's show just seven weeks ago - to a huge, cheering crowd at Century City's Century Plaza Hotel in West Los Angeles - the site of President Ronald's Reagan's victory party on Election Day 1980. Leno said the governor-elect was thrilled that after years of panning his movies, his critics were now calling him an actor.
Davis gave an early concession speech with no hint of a Florida-mindful qualification awaiting certified final results. In a graceful statement, smiling broadly as he made it, Davis thanked his supporters, recalled his many legislative victories on behalf of children, schools and workers, and offered his help to the new governor. He was effusive in praising his wife, who stood with tears in her eyes beside him in what Davis said he told her was a "no crying zone.
Standing close to him much of the time was the leader of the failed 2001 Hollywood secession movement, Gene La Pietra, a Hollywood nightclub owner and substantial contributor to Democratic causes. Just behind the governor was Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had devoted many days to camapigning against Davis's recall. Also visible were Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla and Torres, whom Davis greeted with a grateful hug as soon as he took the stage.
For Davis, a California elected offical for 20 of the last 30 years, it was a stunning end to a career that once seemed likely to lead him to a rave for the White House. The bitter seven-week campaign offered him little time to reverse a vast tide of voter discontent that at one point saw his approval ratings fall to just 22 percent, and gave Schwarzenegger the maximum advantage of his celebrity.
"I think this is a case of misdirected anger," Los Angeles Times Editorial Page Editor Janet Clayton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Tuesday night. The paper's damning allegations of sexual misbehavior brought by 15 women - one of them convicted seven times of prostitution - did not persuade voters the former Mr. Universe was unfit to run the state.
Most voters told network pollsters as they left the polls that they had made up their minds which way to vote more than a month ago, before the revelations and before the much-ballyhooed debate between five guvernatorial candidates on Sept. 24.
At 1:42am Pacific time, with 92 percent of the vote in, Yes was leading No 3,895,186 votes to 3,321,030, a margin of 574,146 votes, or 54 to 46 percent, while Schwarzenegger had a strong 3-2 lead over Bustamante. Schwarzenegger's 3,288,361 votes dwarfed Bustamante's 2,234,026. Bustamante was capturing just 53 percent of the state's influential Latino vote, with a large percentage going to Schwarzenegger, exit polls showed. With 96.8 percent of precincts reporting, the actor lead Bustamante by 47.9 to 32.4 percent, with McClintock winning 13.2 percent.
The legitimacy of Schwarzenegger's victory was said by many Democratic strategists to depend on whether the actor got more votes than the Davis forces got against the recall. Schwarzenegger was leading on that count by about 150,000 votes with about 13 percent of the results counted, but fell behind by 59,492 votes by 2:30am Pacific time, when some 7,200,000 votes had been counted. By 5:49am PST, however, with 7,529,121 votes counted, Schwarzenegger lead Davis's No on Recall vote by 12,634 votes. It was unclear whether uncounted absentee votes would widen or narrow that slim margin.
It apeared the final tally of all votes would be about 8,000,000, which would amount to a few percentage points more than were cast in the gubernatorial election 11 months ago. It was not yet possible to say whether fewer votes were cast for a replacement than for the recall, which could alter the percentage of votes cast for Schwarzenegger relative to other replacement candidates versus those cast for and against the recall. Schwarzenegger was getting a larger share, 47 percent, of the votes cast for a replacement than the 45 percent Davis got in his 2002 campaign against Republican Bill Simon, who polled 41 percent.
Based on the 5,815,541 votes cast for Bustamante and Schwarzenegger and about 1.1 million for others, roughly 500,000 fewer votes were cast for a replacement than were cast on the recall, the first part of the ballot. That drop-off was not by itself enough to seal Bustamante's fate.
Conservative Republican State Senator Tom McClintock polled about 13 percent of the vote, while Green Party candidate got 3 percent and Arianna Huffington, who dropped out to fight the recall in support of Davis, got 1 percent.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a self-made millionaire, financed the recall petitions with $1.6 million of his personal fortune. The success of the recall has virtually erased the odor of his youthful convictions for car theft and propelled him into the leadership of the state Republican Party, which greeted him with a standing ovation at its September convention.
The recall he financed, and its apparent results - called by CNN, CBS and NBC immediately after voting ended at 8:00pm PST - a top Republican told MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, were "a 10-point earthquake on the political scale."
Joe Shea is founder and Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, the world's first, oldest and only journalist-owned original online daily newspaper.