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Schwarzenegger thanks voters for their trust

'I will not fail you ... I will not let you down,' he says

Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrates his victory.
Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrates his victory.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, the winner in the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis in the California recall election, thanked the voters for "giving me their great trust."

"I will do everything I can do to live up to that trust. I will not fail you. I will not disappoint you. I will not let you down," he told supporters packed into the main ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

"I want to be the governor for the people. I want to represent everybody."

Schwarzenegger, 56, the Austrian immigrant who made good as a bodybuilder and star of action films, first thanked his wife, NBC correspondent Maria Shriver, "for the love and the strength" she provided.

He also singled out his in-laws, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, both icons of the Democratic Party, for thanks.

"Everything I have is because of California. I came here with absolutely nothing, and California has given me absolutely everything," Schwarzenegger said.

"And today, California has given me the greatest gift of all -- you have given me your trust by voting for me."

He was introduced by Jay Leno, host of NBC's "The Tonight Show." Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on Leno's show in August.

"The critics said, 'Well, Arnold can't be an administrator, he's an actor. Arnold can't be an environmentalist, he's an actor. Arnold can't be a governor, he's an actor,' " Leno said.

"And, of course, Arnold was thrilled [because] for the first time in his career, the critics are calling him an actor, ladies and gentlemen -- this is a historic night!"

Also seen in the crowd were actors Gary Busey and Rob Lowe.

The Century Plaza was a favorite of another Republican actor-turned-politician, Ronald Reagan, who often celebrated his victories there.

Minutes earlier, Davis conceded the recall defeat and wished Schwarzenegger well as the voters' choice to replace him.

"Tonight, the voters did decide it's time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgment," Davis said, promising a smooth transition.

Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, who appeared to be finishing a distant third in the replacement vote behind Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, conceded before Davis did.

Schwarzenegger votes at his polling place in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles.
Schwarzenegger votes at his polling place in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles.

"This is a great day for California. ... In response to a common danger, the people of California rose to their duties and ordered a new direction for our state," McClintock said.

Bustamante, apparently second in the voting, did not concede until some time later, after first appearing to applaud the defeat of Proposition 54, a ballot measure that would have prohibited the state from collecting data about race.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, the multimillionaire who bankrolled the recall signature-gathering effort, was elated by Schwarzenegger's victory and shrugged off a suggestion that the recall raised his own political star.

"There's only one star in the Republican Party, and that's Arnold Schwarzenegger," Issa told The Los Angeles Times.

Schwarzenegger began his day by voting near his Pacific Palisades home with Shriver and was asked how it felt to vote for himself the first time.

"This was cool," he said.

"It's up to God what the decision is," said Schwarzenegger. "We've done all the work, and we've worked hard and campaigned hard and tried to get the message out there."

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