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Arnold: “I Vil Lif Up to Da Trust

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8 – In an emphatic end to an extraordinary campaign, Californians voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to recall Gov. Gray Davis and chose as his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born bodybuilder and movie actor making his first run for office.
With nearly 97 percent of the votes counted, the recall question on the two-part ballot was passing by 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent, closely mirroring results from a survey of voters conducted for The New York Times and other news organizations. The interviews with more than 4,000 voters showed deep dissatisfaction with Mr. Davis’s performance in office and a profound desire for change in direction in California, the nation’s largest state.

In the contest to replace Mr. Davis, Mr. Schwarzenegger led his nearest competitor, Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, 47.9 percent to 32.4 percent, with nearly 97 percent of the vote counted.

In an appearance before cheering supporters late in the night, after being introduced by the talk show host Jay Leno, Mr. Schwarzenegger thanked his wife, Maria Shriver, saying, “I know how many votes I got because of you.”

Saying he owed a great debt to California, Mr. Schwarzenegger thanked the people of the state and 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.”

He called for unity among the various factions in the state and said “We need to bring back the trust in the government itself.”

Mr. Davis called Mr. Schwarzenegger shortly before 10 p.m. Pacific time to concede the election. Addressing supporters in a Los Angeles hotel ballroom a few minutes later, Mr. Davis said, “Tonight the voters decided it’s time for someone else to serve. My friends, we’ve had a lot of good nights over the last 20 years, but tonight the people did decide it’s time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgment.”

When he said California would soon have a new governor, his supporters began to chant “Recall, recall,” perhaps a portent of further instability and bitterness.

But he urged his supporters “to put the chaos and the division of the recall behind them.”

In interviews conducted as part of the survey, voters rendered a sharply negative verdict on Mr. Davis, who has spent most of his adult life in politics and who was re-elected just 11 months ago. Nearly three of four of the voters disapproved of his job performance, and four of five said they thought the economy was “not so good” or poor.

Mr. Schwarzenegger was viewed favorably by half of voters, even though many who said they voted for him also said he had not put forward a specific enough plan for addressing the state’s problems, the poll found. Mr. Schwarzenegger did not do significantly worse among women than among men, despite repeated reports in recent days of sexual misconduct by him. In fact, the vast majority of voters surveyed said they had made up their minds on whom to vote for more than a month ago. Even those who decided in the last week chose Mr. Schwarzenegger over all other candidates.

Mr. Schwarzenegger would take office only after Tuesday’s election results are certified by the California secretary of state. The process typically takes four to five weeks, meaning that a transfer of power may not take place until early November.

Tuesday’s vote concluded 77 days of political mayhem unlike anything this state has seen. The race featured a crazy quilt of 135 candidates, any of whom, under the unusual rules of the recall, could have been elected with a simple plurality. But it ended in a close-in brawl between a seasoned political gut-puncher, Mr. Davis, and a willful newcomer, Mr. Schwarzenegger. In the end, however, Mr. Davis simply had no strength left to overcome his rival’s momentum and celebrity.

The race generated enormous interest in California and around the world because of the novelty of a recall and the star power of Mr. Schwarzenegger, whose most recent movie, “Terminator 3,” was released weeks before the race began. Californians followed the 11-week contest with an intensity usually reserved for freeway car chases and Oscar night.

The candidates spent $83 million, more than $40 million of it on a downpour of television advertising in the race’s closing weeks. The biggest single source of campaign money – $10.3 million – was Mr. Schwarzenegger’s personal bank account.

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley estimated the turnout on Tuesday at 9.25 million voters, about 60 percent of the state’s 15.4 million registered voters, compared with about 50 percent last November and 71 percent in the 2000 election. If the estimate proves accurate, it will be the state’s highest voter participation in a nonpresidental election since 1982.

Mr. Davis cast his vote in a real estate office on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood late Tuesday morning, the same place where Larry Flynt, the self-described “smut-peddler with a heart” and one of the candidates on the replacement ballot, cast his ballot a few minutes earlier. Mr. Davis was accompanied by his wife, Sharon, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has appeared several times on Mr. Davis’s behalf to try to rally disaffected Democrats.

Mr. Schwarzenegger voted in the garage of a big, gated house in the Pacific Palisades of Los Angeles, near his home, trailed by a battalion of reporters and photographers. He put on glasses to study the ballot, which was several pages long.

“I just went through the pages,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “Instead of going through two pages, I just went through 10 pages, and you always look for the longest name.”

His wife, Maria Shriver, was by his side, as she has been almost constantly since last Thursday when new reports of sexual misconduct threatened to derail Mr. Schwarzenegger’s march to Sacramento.

Discontent with Mr. Davis and the direction of the state was palpable at polling places from one end of this sprawling republic of 35 million people to the other.
 

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