Californians ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis just 11 months into his second term and gave Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger a landslide victory, ending the unprecedented recall election that has dominated national headlines for two months.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver after voting in Pacific Palisades (Photo: San Francisco Chronicle)

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, the recall was favored by 4,246,844 votes, or 55 percent, and opposed by 3,499,320 votes, or 45 percent.

Davis conceded the race to Schwarzenegger just before 10 p.m. Pacific time and pledged to work toward a smooth transition.

“Tonight, the voters did decide it’s time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgment,” Davis said. “I’m calling on everyone … to put the chaos and division of the recall behind us and do what’s right for this great state of California.”

Schwarzenegger declared victory in a celebration at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. The Austrian immigrant was introduced by Jay Leno, host of “The Tonight Show,” where he announced his candidacy two months ago.

“I came here with absolutely nothing, and California has given me absolutely everything. And today, California has given me the greatest gift. You have given me your trust for voting for me,” Schwarzenegger said.

“I will do everything I can to live up to that trust. I will not fail you, I will not disappoint you, and I will not let you down.”

In his concession, Davis expressed gratitude to his supporters and to “the people of California for the privilege and the honor of representing 35 million people the last five years, and the opportunity to serve you and in my own way try and make life better.”

Gov. Gray Davis, flanked by wife Sharon, Jesse Jackson, greets supporters after voting in Los Angeles (Photo: San Jose Mercury News)

“I have placed a call to Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger just a few minutes ago to congratulate him on being elected governor,” Davis said to a chorus of boos at the mention of Schwarzenegger’s name.

Scharzenegger scored 48 percent of the vote, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 32 percent, Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock 13 percent and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo 3 percent.

Despite having dropped out of the race, Arianna Huffington won 42,227 votes and Peter Ueberroth 21,561 votes.

Voters also overwhelmingly rejected both initiatives on the ballot. Proposition 54, the measure sponsored by activist Ward Connerly that sought to prohibit state and local governments – except for law enforcement agencies – from classifying people by race, ethnicity, color or national origin, was opposed by 64 percent and supported by 36 percent.

Proposition 53, which would have diverted billions of budget dollars to the rebuilding of infrastructure, was defeated by the same percentage.

In a concession call to Schwarzenegger, McClintock said, according to NBC, “I pledged to him my wholehearted support in undertaking the great responsibilities that the people of California have entrusted to him.”

“This is a great day for the state of California,” McClintock said. “In response to a common danger, the people of California rose to their duties and ordered a new direction for our state.”

The state senator said, “I believe that our campaign acted as the conscience of this election. The burden that now falls on our new governor is a heavy one and he’s going to need the active support of all Californians.”

Bustamante chose to focus on the defeat of Proposition 54, telling supporters, “We have something to celebrate tonight. We have this victory on Proposition 54. … The numbers we are seeing tonight say that we’re going to defeat Proposition 54 by a wide margin. This is a dramatic victory, it marks a dramatic turnaround for this state. Finally, California is saying ‘no more wedge politics.'”

Only the second in history

Davis won re-election last November but his unpopularity has skyrocketed amid a massive budget deficit, high unemployment and a tripling of the car tax by executive order.

He becomes only the second governor in U.S. history to be recalled. Voters removed North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier in 1921.

A Fox News exit poll showed just 27 percent of voters approved of Davis’ job performance while 72 percent disapproved.

“This is an amazing turn of events and these numbers are obviously shocking,” Schwarzenegger supporter Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., told Fox News before the polls closed. “It looks like it’s going to be a landslide if you can believe the exit polls.”

Polling supervisor Patti Negri told KNTV she witnessed the heaviest early turnout she had seen in her 12 years on the job.

“I’ve never been so busy, ever,” she said. “We had to do a lot of paperwork but people seem excited and ready to vote.”

‘Revolution without a shot’

Among the many Californians happy to see Davis go is syndicated talk-show
host Michael Savage.

Said Savage on his show last night: “Did you know that Davis has made more than 260 appointments as of last week to judgeships and state commissions since the recall election was announced 10 weeks ago? What does that tell you about this man? Is this a man who plays honestly? Is this a man who legislates in the daylight?

“He’s stocking the courts with corrupt fish,” Savage concluded.

Savage said he was “outraged at the smear campaign” by Democrats and their supporters, decrying news stories reporting an allegation Schwarzenegger once talked of admiring Adolf Hitler.

He relayed a report that Austrian Jews have discounted the link drawn between Schwarzenegger and Hitler.

Referring to the recall election, Savage hailed U.S. “democracy.”

“I believe we’re going to see a revolution in America today without a shot
being fired,” he said, “which is what makes America the greatest place on
earth. We can have bloodless revolutions in this nation.”

A voter in Berkeley, however, told KABC-TV in Los Angeles she is “horrified at the thought that Schwarzenegger can be our governor.”

“I’m sick of Republicans trying to take over the state,’ said Gretchen Purser, 25, who voted against recall.

Ed Troupe, 69, of Thousand Oaks, voted yes for recall and for Schwarzenegger.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he told the L.A. station, “Gray Davis is one of the dirtiest politicians I’ve ever encountered.”

President Bush said yesterday he was ready to work with Schwarzenegger if Californians elected him.

The president said in August he thought Schwarzenegger would be a “good governor.” But yesterday he tried to avoid questions about whether he still held that view after the publishing of allegations the Austrian-born actor groped more than a dozen women.

“I feel like the California people are going to make a wise decision, that they are now in charge of the process,” Bush told reporters.

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