With aid from the postal service, illegal voters, and an audit-proof print-your-own-ballot scheme, Gavin Newsom remains at the helm in California. This outcome invites a look back at 2003, when Californians succeeded in replacing a Democrat governor, and what that might mean going forward.
Under Gray Davis, a former assemblyman and state controller, bands were adopting names such as “The Rolling Blackouts.” On October 7, 2003, 55.4 percent of Californians opted to remove Davis and replace him with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. With 48.58 percent of the vote, he prevailed over more than 100 candidates, including actor Gary Coleman, Arianna Huffington, and pornographer Larry Flint.
The triumphant Schwarzenegger posed with a broom and promised to clean house. He declared war on government employee unions and promised to “blow up the boxes”—the maze of boards and commissions that serve as soft landing spots for washed-up politicians. For the “Governator,” it was just another acting job.
The star of Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, and Kindergarten Cop quickly abandoned reform and became a strategic ally of left-wing Democrats. Like Harry Tasker’s terrorist foes in True Lies, they were “all bad.”
After Bay Area voters booted State Senator Carole Migden, known for verbally abusing her own staff, Schwarzenegger appointed the Democrat to the waste-management board at $132,000 a year. The Governator, a self-described fiscal conservative, was also a pal of Democrat insider Robert Klein, the wealthy real-estate developer who created the California Housing Finance Agency (CHFA) in 1973. Klein was the backer of the 2004 Proposition 71, which sought $3 billion for embryonic stem cell research.
The wealthy Democrat claimed the measure would cure a host of deadly diseases and the state treasury would overflow with royalties. The measure created the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which promptly hired former state Democratic Party boss Art Torres and tripled his salary to $225,000. By the time the $3 billion had been spent, a ballpark figure for the number of FDA-approved cures and therapies was zero.
In his book Total Recall, Schwarzenegger called leftist Fabian Núñez, a former assembly speaker, “one of my closest allies among the Democrats.” The pair worked together on AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, “our boldest policy leap,” which the governor claimed would be good for the economy. It wasn’t, and the relationship with Núñez went far beyond climate change.
In 2008, Núñez’s son Esteban was involved in the fatal stabbing of college student Luis Santos and sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter, avoiding a possible life sentence for murder. The former Assembly Speaker tried to get the sentence reduced, but a judge refused. On January 2, 2011, during his final hours as governor, Schwarzenegger commuted Esteban’s sentence to seven years. The Governator failed to notify the victim’s family and Judge Lloyd Connelly called the action “distasteful and repugnant.”
Nothing about that appears in Total Recall in which the author claims, “Republicans had been stupidly alienating women.” That is a boilerplate Democrat smear, and it raised an issue Californians overlooked. Like Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1992, the 2003 recall victor was a two-for-one deal.
Arnold’s wife Maria Schriver was Democrat royalty, the daughter of George McGovern’s 1972 running mate Sergeant Shriver. According to a friend who goes back to Arnold’s bodybuilding days, Maria Shriver was the force behind the Governator’s picks for offices such as director of finance. With California in fathomless debt, Californians expected a proven economist with a record of budgetary reform.
Arnold’s pick was Ana Matosantos, a Puerto Rico native with an undergraduate degree in political science and feminist studies. Matosantos easily transitioned to chief budget advisor for recurring Gov. Jerry Brown, and her tenure was marked by “multibillion-dollar shortfalls.” True to form, Gov. Gavin Newsom made Matosantos his cabinet secretary before proclaiming her state “energy czar.”
In 2010, after the retirement of state Chief Justice Ronald George, the Governator selected appeal court judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, billed as a moderate Republican. In 2015, a criminal illegal calling himself Jose Ines Garcia Zarate gunned down Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier, but Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye was untroubled by Democrat sanctuary policies that protected the shooter. In 2017, Cantil-Sakauye charged that ICE agents were “stalking” criminal illegals in courthouses.
In effect, Cantil-Sakauye was Schwarzenegger’s Rose Bird, Jerry Brown’s pro-criminal pick for Chief Justice, soundly rejected by the voters in 1986. If Californians thought that Cantil-Sakauye and Ana Matosantos were selections of Maria Shriver, based solely on identity politics, it would be hard to blame them.
After Gray Davis, California voters expected a conservative reformer. They got a climate change dogmatist, a rewarder of corrupt politicians, and a coddler of violent criminals. In short, Arnold Schwarzenegger governed as a leftist Democrat, and current voters might find a few lessons going forward.
The 2022 midterms constitute a recall of sorts for Joe Biden and his Junta of big spenders, cracked generals, and white coat supremacists. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, many candidates will be talking a good game but Americans have cause for caution. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household, warns Matthew 10:36. In similar style, the enemies of the people can sometimes be those of their own party.