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THE RECALL ELECTION | STATEHOUSE JOURNAL

On Day After, Davis' Aides Polish Their Resumes

October 09, 2003|Nancy Vogel, Eric Bailey and Jenifer Warren | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — On the morning after, the hangover -- while wretched -- came as no great surprise.

"In politics," said Steve Maviglio, press secretary for Gov. Gray Davis, "there's never job security."

Hours after their leader had been unceremoniously deposed by California voters, loyalists to the outgoing governor found solace Wednesday in the finality of defeat and pondered the prospect of job hunting in an iffy economy.

The dominant mood was one of scrappy acceptance -- a stiff upper lip masking an undercurrent of resentment. For many in the Davis administration, the recall and the abrupt installation of Arnold Schwarzenegger as California's 38th governor add up to a stealth move by Republicans to seize the prize their party failed to win last November.

Few dared express that sentiment publicly, however, given the electorate's loud cry for change. And so the tone of the day was mostly one of humble gratitude by Team Davis for the five-year chance to serve the Golden State.

"We have nothing to hang our heads about," said Roger Salazar, a political advisor to the governor. "As upsetting as this may be for people, they can take pride in the accomplishments."

At the Department of Consumer Affairs, Director Kathleen Hamilton had no immediate employment plans. She was most worried about her staff, and took 30 of them to breakfast Wednesday at the Fox & Goose Public House, a popular Democratic hangout. Dust off your resumes, she counseled them.

"I'm a mother hen by nature," she said, "and I really hope the new administration will keep some of these people."

A few blocks away, Nancy McFadden, a senior advisor to Davis, acknowledged that the recall's success had left her in a pickle. McFadden joined the governor's central circle in April 2001, with the electricity crisis raging. A former deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, she had expected to stay only a few months in California but soon was given a high-level job on Davis' team.

A few months ago, McFadden sank roots in Sacramento, buying a house. Three weeks ago all of her belongings arrived from Washington.

"So much for my timing," she said.

As for what she'll do now, McFadden answered with a laugh and a comment that echoed in Capitol corridors today:

"I don't have a bloody idea."

While hundreds of Davis appointees spent the day planning exit strategies, Republicans in Sacramento looked forward dreamily -- almost disbelievingly -- to the future. After five years on the ramparts of California politics, the GOP now will have a man behind the biggest desk in the Capitol.

Despite suggestions that Schwarzenegger, a political greenhorn, could stumble as he struggles to learn the ropes, Republican leaders clearly believe they will be newly empowered by his presence.

Suddenly, the possibility of passing bills that are high priorities for business groups and having a stronger voice in budgetary matters does not seem farfetched.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't get to where he is by some magical formula," said Assembly Republican leader Dave Cox of Fair Oaks. "One of his ingredients is that he's a hard worker, and he's going to work at the job."

One person whose trust and confidence the new governor will need is Senate leader John Burton of San Francisco -- the savvy veteran who is key to any budget deal or legislation Schwarzenegger hopes to pass.

Burton, declaring it wonderful that "the Republicans have elected a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control governor," said Schwarzenegger had called him Wednesday morning. The two men had a friendly two-minute conversation while the governor-elect was riding his exercise bike.

"He said he wanted to work with all the legislators from both parties," Burton recalled. "Other than that, we just shared a few things. I let him get back to his exercise. And I got back to watching a 'Seinfeld' rerun."

Burton -- who has vowed that no budget agreement will pass if it means cuts to programs that aid the poor, blind or disabled -- predicted an alliance with Schwarzenegger like the one between former President Reagan and then-House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).

The two men, one a Republican and one a Democrat, "had wonderful personal relationships, and they fought over policy, as we should," Burton said. "Hopefully, we'll find enough common ground to get this state out of this mess."

During the campaign, some Democrats predicted that Schwarzenegger's repeated bashing of "career politicians" might lead to a chilly welcome in Sacramento.

State Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) said that he, for one, found the rhetoric demeaning. He said he was more troubled by campaign proposals that, if fulfilled, would "destroy the state."

"My whole life has been put into serving this state," said Vasconcellos, California's longest-serving legislator. "I'm not a Johnny-come-lately. I'll keep on doing what I can for the people of the state and see what he does. So far, it sounds to me like a lot of hoopla."

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