October 08, 2003 12:18 PM

After a fractious and sometimes freakish campaign scuffle, California’s voting public has told Gov. Gray Davis, “Hasta la vista, baby.”

An estimated 65 to 70 percent of voters turned out at the state’s polling places Tuesday to vote overwhelmingly both for a recall of the state’s governor and for actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 56, as a replacement, the Associated Press reports.

Partial returns showed voters approving the recall of Davis, 60, by 53.5 percent, with the Austrian immigrant and husband of journalist Maria Shriver taking 2,693,489 votes as a replacement. Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante — the only Democrat in the recall race — followed with only 1,857,091. Polling places reported long lines throughout the day, with the highest turnout in a California gubernatorial election since 1982.

“Everything I have is because of California,” Schwarzenegger told a cheering crowd during his victory speech at his campaign headquarters, where he was introduced by “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno. “I came here with absolutely nothing, and California has given me absolutely everything. And today, California has given me the greatest gift of all — you have given me your trust by voting for me.”

The new Republican “Governator” managed to overcome rumors of Nazi sympathizing, accusations of sexual harassment and even a 1977 interview with racy adult mag Oui, in which the muscleman, then 29 and the subject of the film “Pumping Iron,” talked candidly about his sexual habits and drug use.

Last week, as campaigning grew increasingly nasty, he apologized for any past sins. “Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes; yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets; and I have done things I thought were playful that now I recognize that I have offended people,” Schwarzenegger said. “I want to say to them that I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize because that is not what I was trying to do.”

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