Calif. voters recall Davis and elect Schwarzenegger
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

California voters elected political newcomer Arnold Schwarzenegger as their governor in an historic election on Tuesday that also saw the ousting of Democrat Gov. Gray Davis.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the Republican actor secured 48 percent of the vote, beating out his closest challenger, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D), who had 32 percent. State Sen. Tom McClintock (R) trailed with 13 percent of the vote.

On the recall question, a majority chose to remove Davis. With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, 55 percent voted "Yes" compared to 45 percent on "No."

"I will not fail you. I will not disappoint you, and I will not let you down," Schwarzenegger said in his victory speech.

Davis conceded two hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. "Tonight the voters decided it's time for someone else to serve," he said.

Bustamante conceded later in the night to Schwarzenegger, who only emerged recently as the front-runner. Tribes played a critical and controversial role in his campaign, and he acknowledged them in a speech.

"California owes them a great debt of gratitude for stepping forward when others faltered," Bustamante said. "I have stood with them, and they are standing with me today. I'm proud to call them my friends."

The election wraps up a whirlwind race that saw tribes with casinos spend more than $12 million, according to the group Common Cause. Most of the money went to support Bustamante but McClintock and Davis were also beneficiaries. Tribes gave directly to the candidates, ran print and television ads, sent direct mailings and conducted focus groups among voters.

It was Schwarzenegger's refusal to take tribal donations, however, that defined much of the race. The actor ran television and radio ads accusing his rivals for accepting money from tribes in exchange for political favors.

The message resonated throughout the state even though a majority of voters, in two separate campaigns, have supported Indian gaming. Bustamante bore the brunt of criticism for putting six-figure donations from tribes into an old campaign committee. A state judge later ruled that his actions violated state law.

Bustamante transferred the money to a new committee aimed at defeating Proposition 54, which would have restricted the state's collection of racial and ethnic data. The measure was voted down 64 percent to 36 percent.

Proposition 53 to dedicate up to 3 percent of the state's tax base to modernize roads, bridges and other public structures also failed by 64 percent to 36 percent. The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians spent $1.5 million on ads in support of the measure.

David Laughing Horse Robinson, the only Indian in the race, received 5,445 votes, according to the latest tally from the Associated Press. Robinson serves as chairman of the Kawaiisu Tribe, whose status was terminated in 1958 and hasn't been restored.

Vote Results:
Recall Question | Replacement Candidates

Schwarzenegger Victory Speech | Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante

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