Arnold Schwarzenegger Reflects on 2003 Recall Election Win, Shares Advice for Gov. Gavin Newsom
In an interview with Politico published Wednesday, Schwarzenegger — who became the 38th governor of California following a 2003 recall election — reflected on the similarities he sees between the displeasure with Newson and the political climate almost two decades ago.
"It's pretty much the same atmosphere today as it was then," said the actor-turned-politician-turned actor, 73. "It's very tough to raise kids and to have a family and to go through this challenge [of the pandemic], working to make ends meet. And you feel like, 'Wait a minute, but Sacramento doesn't really do everything for us that they promised they'll do. We are working hard — but they're not. They're failing us every day.' "
"People are dissatisfied. [The recall is] the people's way of kind of letting off some steam, and then they decide: Do we want to follow through, or not follow through?" Schwarzenegger added.
Newsom has faced criticism over his response to COVID-19, which has had a significant economic impact on the state, as well as problems in his administration related to $10 billion in unemployment fraud.
While The Los Angeles Times reported in February that Newsom's popularity in the state "plummeted" over the past year — with a University of California Berkeley poll showing one-third of Californians support the effort to remove him from office — the Associated Press also reported in February that 54 percent of Californians still approved of Newsom's leadership, according to another survey.
Newsom has said the recall is being promoted by various Donald Trump supporters and he has defended his pandemic decisions.
Although there have been dozens of pushes over the years, former Gov. Gray Davis, who was replaced by Schwarzenegger, is the only recall that actually made it onto a ballot, according to the Times.
As for what helped him in 2003, Schwarzenegger told Politico that he was able to connect with Californians, rising above party politics.
"I made it very clear to the people of California that I don't see the Democrats as the enemy, and I don't see Republicans as the enemy. I said we must work together to bring the people together — and then we can accomplish certain things. So, this is what I think was a refreshing kind of a thing to hear," he said.
"Yes, stardom helps — as much as when people say, 'If you have money you can buy the election.' But there's many elections that we can point to in America that have happened where billionaires didn't win," he added.
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Although Schwarzenegger said he would not be making an endorsement, he did share some advice for the current governor.
"Newsom is doing something very smart, and that is that he is engaged now. The people have already succeeded with that, even if there's no recall, because he now has gotten out of Sacramento," Schwarzenegger said. "He is traveling around the state, is being seen everywhere, is involved and engaged with the vaccine, is involved with education. I see him on the news all the time now. And you know, he's handling this situation really well. That is already a victory."
"Now it's — can you really address the homeless, can you really create equality in education? [On those issues, he must] sit down and they have to go and work on that, without listening to the special interests, and really represent the people in the best possible way," he said.
Continuing, Schwarzenegger said: "So the only advice I have for him is that he's doing a good job now. That he has improved his connection with the people, and that he should continue on being real — being himself, and to really always just think about the people — and not about the unions, not about the party, not about any of that — just the people. And to solve the problems. Solve the problems."
Amid mounting pressure from California Republicans, Newsom, 53, has admitted he's "worried" about the pending recall election.
"Am I worried about it? Of course I'm worried about it," he said last month during an appearance on The View.
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After enough signatures are deemed valid to force a recall, Newsom would be removed with more than 50 percent of voters choosing "yes" on the question of ousting him.
At that point, the governor's successor would be whomever gets the most votes on the second question — who should replace Newsom? — though they would not need to get a majority.
"We're taking it seriously," he said during his appearance on The View. "I have to do my job every single day, but I'm going to fight this thing."