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McClintock Bows to Westly as Contest for Controller Ends

Counting of remaining ballots is expected to confirm Democrats' historic sweep of California's constitutional offices.

November 19, 2002|Carl Ingram | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Republican Tom McClintock conceded defeat Monday in his Nov. 5 contest for state controller against millionaire Democrat Steve Westly, as a relative handful of votes gave Democrats a sweep of every statewide office.

Capping one of the closest races for a constitutional office in California history, McClintock made the announcement as Westly clung to a lead of only 21,027 votes (or 0.3%) in their seesaw contest to become the state's chief financial officer.

After 13 days of tallying ballots, McClintock said it was clear that Westly would win. Unofficial results tallied by Secretary of State Bill Jones gave Westly 3,219,082 votes to McClintock's 3,198,055. About 167,000 returns were yet to be counted. A few close legislative races also remained undecided.

"With a full heart, I wish our new controller Godspeed as he assumes the chief fiscal office of California at a time of great fiscal distress for our state and its people," McClintock said. The two men spoke by telephone at midafternoon.

Westly said he had thanked McClintock for a "very gracious" concession call. "He ran a very strong campaign," said Westly, a former senior vice president of the online auction company EBay.

As controller, Westly said, he will be a powerful voice for "putting our fiscal house in order." He said Gov. Gray Davis and lawmakers will listen to him because he will "know where the money is coming from and how much" there will be.

"People are looking for someone to immediately tackle the budget crisis," Westly said of the mammoth $21.1-billion deficit facing Davis and legislators in the next state budget.

By selecting Democrats to hold every statewide office, from governor to insurance commissioner, Californians went against the national tide in which Republicans recaptured the U.S. Senate and strengthened their majority in the House.

If Westly's win is confirmed when all the votes have been counted, it will be the first time in more than half a century that one party occupied every constitutional office in California. That last occurred in 1946, when Gov. Earl Warren won his second term and led a Republican sweep. At the time, he and others appeared on the ballot as nominees backed by both parties in a voting system known as cross filing.

The last time Democrats swept all statewide offices was in 1882.

Westly, who billed himself as conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on social issues, was making his first run for office in the race against McClintock, a Capitol veteran and a conservative on budget, tax and social issues.

For years, Westly had worked as an energetic operative in the Democratic Party, performing important but thankless bureaucratic tasks. At one point, he challenged former Gov. Jerry Brown for chairmanship of the state party, and lost.

Westly contributed about $5 million of his own money to match a like amount from donors.

The concession marked McClintock's second defeat for controller. In a statement, he said that, when he returns to the state Senate next month -- with two years to serve before he can seek reelection -- he intends to be active in fighting new taxes and high spending.

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