Davis concedes defeat in recall election
Governor has spent decades in public service
(CNN) -- Gov. Gray Davis, a longtime public figure in California, conceded defeat Tuesday night to Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state's first-ever gubernatorial recall, less than a year after winning election to a second term.
Davis spoke to his supporters shortly before 9 p.m.
"Tonight the voters decided it's time for someone else to serve" Davis said, before being stopped by resounding "boos."
"My friends, we've had a lot of good nights over the last 20 years. But tonight the people did decide it's time for someone else to serve. I have placed a call to Mr. Schwarzenegger to congratulate him on being governor."
Davis, a Democrat, is the first California governor ever to face a recall election. He is the second governor in U.S. history to be recalled, the first being North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921.
Davis was first elected governor in 1998 and CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield noted that Davis ran then using the slogan "Experience money can't buy."
"Now that experience became a negative and an outsider with no experience has replaced him," Greenfield said.
Hours before the polls closed, private exit poll data began to point toward a defeat for the governor. While speaking to CNN's Larry King, Davis assured a smooth transition.
"I think the bigger the turnout, the more legitimate the results," Davis said. "If it's a big turnout, then everyone had a chance to have their say, and I obviously will abide by the results."
King asked Davis how it felt to see his name on the recall question.
"Well, it wasn't my happiest moment, but I knew it was coming for a long time, so we put on the best campaign we could in 77 days, and even though California has problems, we've made some progress," Davis said.
Under fire even before the recall
The effort to force a recall election was deemed successful July 28, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante scheduled the recall vote for October 7, the last possible date allowed under state law.
"The voters have been good to me, electing me twice as governor, allowing me to serve 35 million people," Davis said on CNN. "I'm very grateful to them, very grateful for the opportunity to try and move the state forward, and whatever their judgment is tonight, I will accept it."
Davis was elected to office in 1998 with 58 percent of the vote. He won a second term in November with 47 percent.
Even before the recall, Davis faced tremendous criticism over his handling of California's fiscal crisis. At one point, the state had a $38 billion deficit.
Many critics accused Davis of hiding the truth about the state's problems during his re-election campaign.
Late Tuesday, Davis said he will cooperate with a transition.
"That's an obligation, I believe," Davis said. "Governor [Pete] Wilson cooperated in my transition from him to me, and I'll cooperate in the transition, if that's the voters' will, with whoever they choose tonight."
Before becoming governor, Davis served as lieutenant governor from 1995 until 1998. Prior to that, he served as state controller for eight years.
Davis represented Los Angeles County in the State Assembly from 1983 to 1987.
He was chief of staff to Gov. Jerry Brown from 1975-1981. As chair of the California Council on Criminal Justice in the 1970s, he started the statewide Neighborhood Watch program.