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Davis concedes, Schwarzenegger wins

California governor-elect thanks voters for their trust

Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, kiss during Tuesday night's victory speech.
Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, kiss during Tuesday night's victory speech.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gray Davis

(CNN) -- Capping an 11-week campaign bizarre even by Hollywood standards, California voters turned to action movie hero and political novice Arnold Schwarzenegger to come to the rescue as the state's next governor.

Voters ousted incumbent Gov. Gray Davis on Tuesday and selected Schwarzenegger over 134 other candidates on the ballot.

"The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno introduced the actor-turned-politician as "the governor of the great state of California," as Schwarzenegger prepared to become chief executive of the nation's most-populous state and the world's fifth-largest economy.

The governor-elect announced his candidacy at a taping of Leno's show in early August.

"Today California has given me the greatest gift of all: You've given me your trust by voting for me," Schwarzenegger said at 10:40 p.m. (1:40 a.m. EDT). "I will do everything I can to live up to that trust. I will not fail you." (Schwarzenegger speech)

About an hour earlier, Davis, the state's wildly unpopular governor, had called Schwarzenegger to congratulate him.

"We've had a lot of good nights over the last 20 years, but tonight the people did decide that it's time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgment," Davis said. (Full story; Speech)

Despite recent reports that Schwarzenegger, 56, allegedly groped and sexually harassed at least 15 women, CNN exit polls showed that about 47 percent of female voters backed him. Men voted heavily for Schwarzenegger, according to those exit polls. (Full story)

A whopping 72 percent of those who voted Tuesday said they disapproved of Davis' job performance, according to the exit polls, with only 27 percent giving the incumbent a positive approval rating.

Davis, 60, re-elected to a second term less than a year ago, becomes the first governor to be recalled from office since 1921, when North Dakota voters ousted Gov. Lynn Frazier.

"I am calling on everyone in this state to put the chaos and the division of the recall behind us and do what's right for this great state of California," Davis said.

Schwarzenegger, an Austrian-born bodybuilder who has never before held public office, defeated 134 other candidates on the ballot -- ranging from veteran politicians to sitcom stars to a pornography magnate. (Schwarzenegger thanks voters for their trust)

His closest competitor, Democrat Cruz Bustamante, will remain in office as California's lieutenant governor under Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger will assume office within 10 days of the official vote certification, which must be completed by November 15, according to the state elections code. The outcome gives the GOP control of the country's four most-populous states heading into the 2004 presidential election. (Interactive: What happens next?)

Tuesday's election was the climax of one of the strangest episodes in recent U.S. political history. (Genesis of recall rooted in energy crisis; Interactive: Recall petition signature counts)

Election officials reported heavy turnout throughout the day, in addition to more than 2.2 million previously cast absentee ballots, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said. (Gallery: Scenes from the vote; CNN's The Morning Grind: It all comes down to voter turnout)

Davis had urged his supporters to turn out at the polls and said the state is in good shape despite the economic problems that helped trigger the recall. He also pointed to his record on health care, education and the environment. (Biography: Gray Davis)

But polls consistently indicated that Californians held Davis in contempt.

"People were angry at the governor," Art Torres, chairman of the state's Democratic Party, said in explaining the results.

Preliminary results showed that about 54 percent of voters backed the recall. Schwarzenegger easily led the list of replacement candidates, followed by Bustamante, state Sen. Tom McClintock and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo. (Results)

Davis: "The people did decide that it's time for someone else to serve and I accept their judgment."

McClintock conceded defeat to Schwarzenegger less than an hour after polls closed and cast the day's events as a win for the state. (GOP candidates vote)

"This is a great day for California," the veteran conservative said. "On this day, in response to a common danger, the people of California rose to their duties as citizens."

In a speech late Tuesday, before conceding the recall race, Bustamante celebrated the defeat of Proposition 54, a ballot measure that would have prohibited the state from collecting data about race. (Full story)

The proposition will be shot down by a 2-to-1 margin, according to CNN estimates.

With more personal baggage than political pedigree, Schwarzenegger survived a wave of scandal in the campaign's closing days.

After surging ahead in polls after a September 24 debate, the actor found himself fending off the sexual harassment allegations and a claim that he expressed admiration for Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a 1975 interview. (On the Scene: CNN's Kelly Wallace)

While vehemently denying he had Nazi sympathies, Schwarzenegger both apologized for behaving badly and disputed some of the accusations, but he has given no specifics.(Full story)

Women were featured prominently in his recent campaign appearances, with his wife, Maria Shriver, and her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late President Kennedy, offering public support.

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