Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
Elected: Oct. 2003, term expires Jan. 2011, 1st full term.
Born: July 30, 1947, Thal, Austria .
Home: Los Angeles.
Education: U. of WI-Superior, B.A. 1979.
Family: Married (Maria Shriver); 4 children.
Military career: Austrian Army, 1965-66.
Professional Career: Bodybuilder, 1965-80; Chairman, President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1990-93; Actor, 1970-2003.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilder, movie actor, and entrepreneur, was elected governor of California in October 2003 and re-elected in November 2006. He grew up in Graz, Austria, where his father was a police officer. At age 13, he told his parents, “I want to be the best-built man in the world.” He started training and at 17 competed in his first bodybuilding contest. Getting drafted into the Austrian army slowed him down but not much. He left base without permission one day to compete in the Mr. Europe Junior contest in Stuttgart, Germany, which he won. But his superiors put him in the brig. In 1966, at age 19, he won the Mr. Europe competition in London. There were three organizations holding Mr. Universe contests, and by 1970 he had won them all. In 1970, he won the Mr. Olympia contest for the first of seven times and was generally hailed as the strongest man in the world.
|Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)||4,850,157||(56%)|
|Phil Angelides (D)||3,376,732||(39%)|
|Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)||1,724,281||(90%)|
In the course of these competitions, Schwarzenegger visited California in September 1968. The presidential contest between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey was dominating the news, and he decided he preferred the Republican. He also liked Nixon’s home state. Schwarzenegger started buying commercial properties in Santa Monica. In 1970, he got a bit part in a movie called Hercules in New York, which opened the door to more acting opportunities. In 1982, he starred in Conan the Barbarian, the first in a string of box-office hits that included The Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, and True Lies. He also continued his quest for self-improvement, earning a business degree from the University of Wisconsin at Superior in 1979.
In the decade of the 1980s, Schwarzenegger’s interest in politics and public service grew, an interest no doubt fostered by the woman he married in 1986, television journalist Maria Shriver, the daughter of Sargent Shriver, first head of the Peace Corps and the Great Society’s anti-poverty program, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics. Schwarzenegger got involved in promoting physical fitness among underprivileged children. From 1990 to 1993, he was chairman of President George H. W. Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and in 1995 he established the National Inner City Games Foundation. In 2002, he sponsored a California ballot proposition to establish a publicly supported after-school program. Proposition 49 passed 57%-43%, with roughly even support in all regions of the state.
There was speculation that Schwarzenegger might run for governor in 2006, but many thought his liberal positions on cultural issues—pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control, pro-civil unions for gays and lesbians—would make it hard for him to win a Republican primary. But there turned out to be another path to the governorship when California fell on hard times. In early 2003, the state deficit was projected at as much as $35 billion, California had just undergone crippling electricity shortages, and its economic morale was still recovering from the dot.com bust. Against this backdrop, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis mulled tax increases. Conservative activist Ted Costa started a movement to recall Davis. California law provides that a recall election must be called if petitions are filed with signatures amounting to 12% of the votes most recently cast for the office. Because of the low voter turnout in the state in the 2002 election, that meant 897,000 signatures. In March and April, the drive seemed to falter as polls showed most voters critical of Davis but opposed to recall. Then in May 2003, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who made millions of dollars in a car-alarm business, started pumping $1.7 million into the recall effort. After the July 4 weekend, organizers said they had 1.2 million signatures, and the recall election was set for October 7.
The ballot allowed voters to decide whether to recall Davis and to choose from a list of replacement candidates. Anyone could file as a replacement candidate by paying a $3,500 fee and providing 65 signatures. Speculation turned to a possible run by Schwarzenegger, but he said he was busy promoting his new movie, Terminator 3, and would only decide after that. In early August, Davis sued to try to get the recall delayed or called off. State Democratic leaders threatened that anyone who went on the replacement ballot would kill his or her chances for the nomination to succeed Davis in 2006. On August 5, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom some Democrats wanted as a backup to hold the governorship if Davis was recalled, announced she would not run. That afternoon, Schwarzenegger went to Burbank to tape The Tonight Show. His political consultants believed he would announce he was not running. He shocked them when he said he was. A few hours later, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante broke ranks with other Democrats by saying he was running on the replacement ballot. Within 24 hours, Issa withdrew from the race. In all, 135 candidates qualified for the replacement ballot. But the ranks of serious candidates soon dwindled. By mid-September it was clear that there were three serious candidates on the replacement ballot: Schwarzenegger, Bustamante, and state Sen. Tom McClintock, a fiscal and cultural conservative who had lost the 2002 race for state controller by only 45.4%-45.1%. On September 15, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court postponed the election, but a full 11-judge panel ordered the recall to go ahead on October 7.
Throughout the campaign, Schwarzenegger made few specific proposals but said that Davis must be removed, taxes must not be increased, and spending must be reduced. His campaign organized monster rallies that attracted thousands of people, but where he spoke only briefly and did not mingle with the crowd. Davis rallies were sparsely attended, mainly by Democratic activists and union officials. Bustamante, who announced his candidacy by fax, scarcely campaigned at all, though he did back driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. On October 2, the Los Angeles Times ran a story alleging that Schwarzenegger had groped various women some years ago. He admitted that he had “behaved badly sometimes” and apologized. But the stories failed to stop the tide. Davis, elected 58%-38% in 1998 and re-elected 47%-42% in 2002, was recalled 55%-45%. On the replacement ballot Schwarzenegger won 49% of the vote, Bustamante 32%, and McClintock 13%. The San Francisco Bay Area voted 64%-36% against recall, but Los Angeles County rejected it by only 51%-49%. Southern California voted 69% for recall, and the rest of the state voted 64% in favor of recall. Schwarzenegger trailed Bustamante 46%-33% in the Bay Area, but in coastal California from Los Angeles north equaled him 40%-40%, and led 61%-20% in the South Coast and 56%-23% in interior California.
Democrats were bitter over losing control of state government in this generally Democratic state, and some even threatened to recall Schwarzenegger in 2004. But Davis conceded graciously and ordered his appointees to cooperate with the new administration. On November 17, Schwarzenegger became governor. He ordered a performance review of state government and plunged into the business of drafting a budget. He pressed the Legislature for repeal of the law Davis signed providing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. He also repealed Davis’s car tax increase and approved appropriations to help local governments. They agreed to give up $1.3 billion in each of the next two years in return for a constitutional amendment making it harder for the state to take over local revenues. He got two constitutional amendments put on the March 2004 primary ballot, one to authorize $15 billion of debt to cover the current budget deficit and another to require a balanced budget in the out-years. Both trailed in the polls, but after Schwarzenegger started campaigning for them, the first passed with 63% of the vote and the second with 71%. In April 2004, by threatening to take the issue to the voters, he got the Legislature to make changes in workers’ compensation laws without the rate regulation Democrats were seeking. In May 2004, Schwarzenegger released a $99 billion budget with deficits that seemed likely to be $8 billion over two years. It called for higher payments from Indian casinos and cuts in pay and benefits for state employees. Unlike his Republican predecessors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, he refused to support a tax increase in the budget crisis. California requires budgets to be approved by two-thirds votes in the Legislature, so they always represent something of a consensus. After negotiations broke down, Schwarzenegger signed a $105 billion budget on July 31.
Schwarzenegger tried to better his odds in the Legislature by campaigning for Republican legislative candidates in the fall of 2004, but none won. But he had his successes in November 2004 referenda. A measure he backed promising $3 billion for stem-cell research passed 59%-41%. His measure to protect local government revenues from state takeover was approved 84%-16%. A measure to limit tort actions passed 59%-41%. Indian tribes’ attempts to augment their casino businesses were rejected by voters. Proposals for a telephone tax for emergency medical funding and to mandate health insurance coverage for small businesses also failed. California voters seemed to be falling in line with their new Republican governor.
In early 2005 Schwarzenegger proposed a $111 billion budget, with cuts in scheduled increases in health care, transportation, and school aid. And he went on the offensive, attacking the heart of Democratic institutional power in the state. He demanded action on four issues and, again, threatened to take them to the people in November. He demanded a nonpartisan board of retired judges to redistrict California’s congressional and legislative districts, automatic across-the-board spending cuts if spending grew faster than revenues, merit pay for teachers, and defined-contribution 401(k)-like pensions for state employees. Schwarzenegger said, “We’re going right where all the evil is, and we’re going to fix it.” Redistricting would presumably put more Democrats (and some Republicans) at risk of losing their seats. Across-the-board spending cuts would give the governor huge leverage in budget negotiations. Merit pay for teachers, furiously opposed by teacher unions, would reduce the power of one of the Democrats’ key allies. Defined-contribution pension plans would reduce, over time, the power of CalPERS, which invests California’s pension money and is one of the biggest institutional investors in the country, and Democrats had dominated CalPERS. The Democratically controlled Legislature seemed certain to reject those measures, so in June, Schwarzenegger called a November 2005 special election to get voters to approve them. Three of his favored measures qualified for the ballot: One would give the governor new authority to cut spending, another called for an increase in the service required before teachers could receive tenure, and a third would create a nonpartisan board of retired judges with the authority to redistrict state legislative boundaries. Schwarzenegger dropped his initiative to overhaul the state employee pension system and got rid of the merit pay proposal.
Schwarzenegger’s attempt at plebiscitary government failed. Democrats and labor unions spent over $100 million on television ads against the Schwarzenegger proposals. In 2004, Schwarzenegger had referred to the nurses’ union as a “special interest” and said its leaders disliked him “because I am always kicking butts.” Now television viewers saw a pleasant-looking woman in a nurse’s uniform quote these words back at him. Unaccountably, Schwarzenegger’s political advisers did not respond with a campaign of their own, until the last two months before the November election. Evidently the Governator believed he could still get direct access to voters through the TV cameras always stalking him. But local television news was tired of the Arnold story. Schwarzenegger’s job rating dropped. And on Election Day, all of his proposals lost. Ironically, the highest percentage of votes, 47%, went to a proposition put together by others and only lukewarmly supported by Schwarzenegger, a ban on public employee unions spending dues money on politics without members’ permission.
Schwarzenegger’s response to this shattering defeat was an almost immediate U-turn. As he later put it, “The people sent a very clear message. They said, ‘Hey, don’t come to us. We sent you to Sacramento. Work with them up there. That’s what we expect you to do.’” He hired a new chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, a top aide to Gray Davis. He cultivated Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Don Perata and in the spring of 2006 agreed with them on a “Let’s Rebuild California” program, which would issue billions of dollars in bonds for transportation, housing, school construction, and flood control. Schwarzenegger also reached agreement with Nunez and Perata on a $131 billion budget earlier than in the preceding six years; most Republican legislators voted against it. This was made easier by the appearance of an $8 billion tax windfall, of the sort that California’s progressive tax system tends to produce in times of economic growth. Schwarzenegger also signed bills increasing the hourly minimum wage and purporting to cut drug prices. He signed several bills supported by gay-rights groups, but he vetoed same-sex marriage.
His signature issue in this period was reducing carbon emissions. For more than 50 years, California has had an exemption from federal clean-air legislation. It is authorized to pass more-stringent legislation, for the very good reason that the Los Angeles Basin and other mountain-surrounded valleys in California are subject to inversion, which holds pollution in. California started regulating its air in the 1940s. Smog peaked around 1970, when Schwarzenegger had just come to California. As governor, he called the Bush administration’s position on reducing emissions “embarrassing” and urged California to fill “the vacuum” on carbon emissions policy. In July 2006, he signed an agreement with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to trade scientific and economic research. In March 2007, he signed a cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions with four Western state governors. He went to Detroit to urge automakers to produce cleaner-running cars. In September 2006, he signed a Global Warming Solutions Act, requiring a 25% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 and a 40% cut by 2050. Only one Republican legislator voted for it. “What we’re basically saying to the federal government is, ‘Look, we don’t need Washington.’ And so let us create the partnerships and let the world know that America is actually fighting global warming,” Schwarzenegger said. Leaders of some environmental groups still charged that his programs relied too much on markets. But on this issue, as on many others, voters were faced in 2006 with a very different Arnold Schwarzenegger than the one they repudiated in 2005.
And they responded very differently. Democrats had two serious choices in the Democratic primary: Controller Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who campaigned as a “new Democrat,” and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Sacramento-area real estate developer and former state party chairman. He campaigned as a vitriolic critic of George W. Bush. Angelides won the June primary 48%-43%. But he was not able to raise the large sums he had hoped for, and his angry criticisms went largely unheard as Schwarzenegger traveled the state with top Democrats in the Legislature for bipartisan support of the bond ballot propositions. In November 2006, Schwarzenegger won re-election 56%-39%. He had little in the way of coattails for Republicans. Democrat John Garamendi beat McClintock for lieutenant governor 49%-45%, and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a Schwarzenegger appointee, was beaten by Democrat Debra Bowen 48%-45%. Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was elected attorney general 56%-38%. One Republican, Silicon Valley millionaire Steve Poizner, beat Bustamante for insurance commissioner, 51%-39%. Schwarzenegger did better on the ballot propositions. His four bond issues won majorities ranging from 57% to 64%.
After his victory, Schwarzenegger proclaimed an era of “post-partisanship” and called 2007 the year of health care. He kept Republican legislators at arm’s length and worked closely with Democratic Speaker Nunez. But agreement proved difficult. Democrats rejected a proposal to require everyone to buy health insurance as a burden on the poor, despite proposals for offsetting tax breaks. Republicans opposed requiring employers to offer health insurance or pay into a state fund as an undue burden on business. Through the fall, the governor and Legislature struggled to no avail to settle on a plan that could pass the Assembly and the Senate. With the start of a new year, Schwarzenegger proclaimed 2008 to be the year of education, and in March he presented a proposal for longer hours for day care, expanded English as a Second Language programs, and a school inspection system.
But that went nowhere as the fiscal crisis took precedence. California was one of the epicenters of subprime mortgage lending, with reduced standards or outright fraud in providing financing for marginal buyers, a large percentage of them Latino. Housing prices peaked in 2006, and soon many borrowers found themselves under water, with more debt than their houses were worth. Foreclosures skyrocketed; construction plummeted, and revenues, thanks to California’s progressive taxes, fell far below projections. The robust spending increases that Schwarzenegger, like Davis, had allowed became unsustainable. Schwarzenegger signed a $145 billion budget, with a 10% spending increase, in August 2007, but by the end of the year, he faced a budget shortfall of $18 billion. During the fat years, state salaries grew by 37%, with nearly 1,000 state employees earning over $200,000 a year. The number of state employees per resident grew 8%. By May 2008, Schwarzenegger was calling for borrowing against future lottery receipts and, absent that, instituting a “temporary” 1% sales tax increase. Democrats balked at that, while Republicans opposed any tax increases. In August, Schwarzenegger tried to pressure legislators by cutting state wages to the minimum wage and laying off 10,000 state employees. Only in September was agreement reached on a budget. In October 2008, he told Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that California might have to borrow $7 billion from the federal government. In November, facing a $40 billion shortfall, he signed a bill to borrow $5 billion against future lottery receipts, but it still needed approval from the voters. In February 2009, after three months of furious argument, including a plan to furlough state employees two days a month, Schwarzenegger got the required number of Republican votes to pass a $41 billion package, with about $14 billion in tax increases, $16 billion in spending cuts, and $11 billion in borrowing. Ironically, it included an increase in the car tax—a measure that was the political breaking point for Gray Davis. It also authorized referenda on two constitutional amendments: One was Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cap future state spending, and the other was to create an open primary system (the price for the crucial vote of Republican state Senator Abel Maldonado).
Despite the state’s fiscal straits, Schwarzenegger continued his activist ways as governor. In September 2008, he signed a bill to require local planners to develop goals for reducing carbon emissions and containing sprawl in their regions, and he unsuccessfully sought a ballot initiative to borrow $9 billion for water projects. He succeeded in placing on the ballot a proposal to borrow $10 billion to establish a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, which, despite dubious economic prospects, was approved 53%-47% in 2008. Also passed, by a 51%-49% margin, was his proposal for a bipartisan commission to draw district lines for the state Senate and Assembly—but not, at the insistence of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, congressional districts. Schwarzenegger promoted his green policies nationally, but had less of a profile in presidential politics than he had had in 2004. He endorsed Republican John McCain for president in January 2008, but did little campaigning for him.
During the 2008-09 budget struggle, Schwarzenegger’s job rating fell to well below 50%, and he had long since brushed aside speculation that he run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010. He is of course constitutionally ineligible to run for president, about which he has said, “You will never hear me complain that I can’t run for president. I look at the things that I was able to do rather than the things I am not able to do. I am very, very happy about how America has received me and the kind of things I was able to accomplish here.”