Davis Ousted; Arnold Wins; California Voters Elect Schwarzenegger in Recall
Byline: James G. Lakely, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
LOS ANGELES - California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis yesterday and replaced him with Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, ending one of the most bizarre elections in American history.
The Austrian-born actor thanked California's voters early this morning, describing the vote as the latest chapter in his journey from champion bodybuilder to action film star and now governor of the nation's most populous state.
"From the time I got here, you embraced me. Everything I have is because of the state of California," he said after being introduced by Jay Leno - the man who gave Mr. Schwarzenegger the "Tonight Show" platform on which he announced his candidacy.
"I came here with absolutely nothing and now I have absolutely everything. You have given me the greatest gift of all - your trust. I will do everything I can to live up to that trust. I will not disappoint you. I will not let you down," he told the cheering crowd of supporters in Los Angeles.
With 16 percent of precincts reporting last night, the vote to recall Mr. Davis was ahead by 57 percent to 43 percent. Among the replacement candidates, Mr. Schwarzenegger was the choice of 52 percent, compared with 29 percent for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and 12 percent for state Sen. Tom McClintock, and 2 percent for Green Party candidate Peter Camejo.
Mr. Davis conceded defeat in a Los Angeles hotel shortly after calling Mr. Schwarzenegger to offer congratulations.
"We've had a lot of good nights over the last 20 years, but the people have said they want someone else to serve," Mr. Davis said in a speech that was interrupted twice by boos and catcalls from his supporters.
"And I accept their judgment," he told the audience, after thanking them for their support and "for the opportunity to serve you and make life better."
Favorable numbers from exit polls and internal Republican polling left the Schwarzenegger camp bursting with confidence even before the polls closed.
"Everyone is feeling very good," Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh said just before the polls closed. "When the numbers came in last night, to tell you the truth, the pizza boxes came out [along with] the bottles of red and white California wine."
All the major networks called the race as soon as the polls closed at 11 p.m. EDT, after a day during which exit surveys showed a clear defeat for Mr. Davis and a victory for Mr. Schwarzenegger.
"It looks like 50 percent for Arnold and 60 percent for recall," an elated Rep. Darrell Issa said shortly after the polls closed and news organizations rushed to proclaim the outcome. "It doesn't get any better than this."
Mr. McClintock, a conservative Republican whom some in the party feared would act as a spoiler against the Schwarzenegger campaign, was the first prominent candidate to concede the outcome publicly, shortly before midnight EDT.
Calling his campaign "the conscience of this election," he said he "helped frame the issues upon which this election was decided." At about 11:30, Mr. McClintock called the action-movie star to offer his congratulations, according to the sources in the actor's camp.
"In response to a common danger, the people of California rose to their duties and ordered a new direction for our state," Mr. McClintock said in his speech.
Mr. Bustamante spoke last night, but merely to claim credit for the defeat of a ballot proposition on race.
Supporters of the Austrian-born film star said that a strong margin of victory, combined with yesterday's heavy turnout, would give their candidate a powerful popular mandate.
Yesterday's election is "a mandate that everyone is going to support," said Mr. Issa, the Republican congressman who bankrolled the petition drive that put the Davis recall on the ballot but dropped out of the governor's race early. …