Top 10 quotes from the 2003 Gray Davis recall

Top 10 quotes from the 2003 Gray Davis recall


Recall 2003 results, wikimediaOctober 7 marks the 10-year anniversary of the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis. The 2003 recall brought a movie star to power and marked only the second time in American history that a sitting governor has been removed by such a vote.

Born on talk radio, the recall was panned by the political experts. Once it qualified for the ballot, Democrats responded like a “Bengal tiger” facing off against the “Taliban.” Republicans split on ideological lines but eventually rallied behind a man who “couldn't wait to become an American citizen” so he could “vote Republican.”

Rather than buy something tin, the traditional gift to mark the first decade, we thought it best to assemble our Top 10 quotes from the 2003 recall.

10. Shawn Steel: “Our party is going to be looking very seriously at a recall movement”

“I think that our party is going to be looking very seriously at a recall movement… And I think if we start talking about recall with Davis, it’s focused, it’s specific. It’s not some pie-in-the-sky dream.” — Shawn Steel, then the Chairman of the California Republican Party and the first signatory of the recall petition, kicked off the recall talk in an interview with KSFO-AM’s Melanie Morgan on January 20, 2003. (H/T Joe Mathews, The People’s Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy.)

9. Art Torres: “Vindictive attempt to overthrow the will of California voters”

“The right-wing Republican recall effort is a vindictive attempt to overthrow the will of California voters.” — Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party, wasn’t too happy with the idea. (Source: San Mateo County Times, February 24, 2003)

8. Political Experts: “Not going to go anywhere”

“I didn't see a groundswell of support for a recall. I saw a crowd that would add credence to the governor's claim that it is a partisan movement.” — Sherry Bebitch Jeffe led the chorus of political experts who downplayed early recall campaign efforts. (Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, February 22, 2003)

“I think it's irresponsible mischief myself that's not going to go anywhere. The reality is if (Republicans) are the ones who are going to push it themselves, they're going to push themselves into a hole.” — Bruce Cain, the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, who also dismissed its chances. (Source: Contra Costa Times, February 13, 2003)

7. California Business Roundtable: “We are opposed”

“We all should devote our energies to efforts that will positively benefit our citizens rather than activities that will have no positive productive results and bypass the accepted process for selecting our state leadership. For these reasons we are opposed to placing the recall measure on the ballot.” — The California Business Roundtable, an influential group of business executives, unanimously opposed the recall. (Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 4, 2003)

“Groups like this are the last to wake up to these things. I can't remember one of the special interests that supported Proposition 13 either, and this is a very similar movement. It's something that isn't from the top down, it's from the bottom up.” — Dave Gilliard, a political consultant for the recall group Rescue California, said the campaign would march on without the support of the business community. (Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 4, 2003)

6. Ted Costa: “The potential to just go like wildfire”

“This has the potential to just go like wildfire. We're going to go all out to get the signatures.” — Ted Costa, the “father of the recall,” organized the massive grassroots effort. (Source: Washington Post, February 23, 2003)

5. Rep. Darrell Issa: “Wasn't late for the party”

“I respect the work that he (Ted Costa) did. He's the father of the recall. Whatever place in history I get for the recall, it doesn't start until the paragraph after what Ted did. I wasn't late for the party, but Ted was there for the start.”— Rep. Darrell Issa, who provided crucial financial support for the recall, made sure to give credit to the grassroots activists. (Source: San Bernardino Sun, August 22, 2003)

4. Bob Mullholland: “No surrender…to this Taliban element of the California Republican Party”

“There will be no surrender in this state to this Taliban element of the California Republican Party.” – Bob Mulholland, a California Democratic strategist, tried to paint the recall as a partisan effort. (Source: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, July 24, 2003)

3. Gov. Gray Davis: “I am going to fight like a Bengal tiger”

“I am going to fight like a Bengal tiger, and one of my greatest strengths is people have because underestimated me since I was born. Every time they say I'm road kill. I continue to win because I have great faith that the California voters are fair and believe in fundamental fairness.” — Gov. Gray Davis, an accomplished campaigner, didn’t go down without a fight. (Source: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, July 24, 2003)

2. Tom McClintock: Why must the most qualified candidate defer to celebrity?

“If the most qualified candidate must defer every time a celebrity or a millionaire casts a longing eye on public office, well then we've lost something very important in our democracy, and it's called merit.” — Then-state Sen. Tom McClintock, the choice of California conservatives, continually faced questions about his candidacy splitting the Republican vote. (Source: Associated Press, August 23, 2003)

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Let us unite for victory”

“Are we going to win in unity, with our common fiscal conservative principles? Or let the liberals win, because we are split? Are we going fight Davis and [Lt. Gov. Cruz] Bustamante, or fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory. I have been a Republican ever since. I campaigned for Republicans, knocked on doors for Republicans, I handed out leaflets for Republicans, I've given money to Republican candidates. And I couldn't wait to become an American citizen, so I can vote Republican. And now I'm here, running for governor of this great state as a Republican.” Arnold Schwarzenegger assured Republicans that he was one of them. (Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, September 13, 2003)


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