California voters said ''Hasta la vista, baby'' to Democratic Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday and voted in Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger. The political novice defeated more than 130 other candidates to become the second movie star elected governor of California (Ronald Reagan was the first), while Davis became the first California chief executive (and the second governor in U.S. history) to succumb to a total recall.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, the recall passed 54.2 percent to 45.8 percent, with 4,012,912 pro voters and 3,396,890 con voters, the Associated Press reports. Schwarzenegger earned 3,398,746 votes, (47.6 percent), compared to 2,333,687 votes (32.7 percent) for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, 944,532 votes (13.2 percent) for Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, and 203,766 votes (2.8 percent) for Green Party candidate Peter Camejo had.
Schwarzenegger, who announced his candidacy Aug. 6, defeated not only these political pros but also 130 or so other 15-minutes-of-fame seekers, including former child star Gary Coleman, porn actress Mary Carey, and watermelon-smashing comic Gallagher. He won despite a barrage of negative publicity in the last few days, with 15 women coming forward to say the former bodybuilding champ had groped or sexually harassed them at various times throughout his 30 years in Hollywood, and with transcripts from outtakes of ''Pumping Iron'' quoting him as admiring Adolf Hitler as a self-made man. The actor said he didn't remember making the comments during the filming of the 1977 documentary that made him famous, and while he accused his opponents of smearing him with the sexual harassment claims, he apologized for having offended anyone by ''behaving badly'' in the past.
Schwarzenegger will take office no later than Nov. 16, once the election results are confirmed, which may take a month. He will serve out the three years remaining in Davis' term; Lt. Gov. Bustamante will also remain in office through 2006. At that time, Schwarzenegger may run again, or he may return to Hollywood, where such promised sequels as ''Terminator 4'' and ''King Conan: Crown of Iron'' have apparently been put on indefinite hold.