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Rocky Recall Road Ending in Smooth Shift

Officials from the state's incoming and outgoing administrations report a professional transition.

October 22, 2003|Gregg Jones and Dan Morain | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — When Gov. Gray Davis returns to his private office in the Capitol's east wing Thursday, he will be confronted immediately by the reality of his imminent departure.

The photograph of his wife, Sharon Davis, has been cleared from its prominent place on the credenza behind his desk and packed into a moving box along with other personal possessions. The governor's bookcases are nearly bare and artwork has been stripped from the walls and taken to a state storage facility to allow Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to determine the decor of what soon will be his Capitol digs.

Before the election, Davis and the Republican gubernatorial candidate were exchanging indignant broadsides, questioning each other's integrity, competence and fitness for office.

Now, two weeks after Californians voted to remove the Democratic governor, officials from the incoming and outgoing administrations are describing the transfer of power as smooth, professional and even cordial.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 24, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Nancy McFadden -- An article in Wednesday's California section about the transition between Gov. Gray Davis and Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger incorrectly identified Nancy McFadden as deputy Cabinet secretary for Davis. She is deputy chief of staff.

Davis and his advisors won't vacate their coveted offices in the Capitol's "Horseshoe" until mid-November. But in daily meetings there and in nearby coffee shops and restaurants, senior and mid-level representatives of the rival political camps are hashing out the mechanics of the complicated handover.

A Schwarzenegger shadow government is rapidly taking shape and is being brought up to speed on pressing issues by Davis administration counterparts soon to be replaced.

"In all honesty, they have been classy from Day One," said Bob White, who was chief of staff to Gov. Pete Wilson and now is a Schwarzenegger confidant helping to ease the transfer of power. "We all care about the state. They're going out with a lot of class."

Davis has returned to the Capitol only once since his Oct. 7 ouster, for a teary farewell with senior aides and Cabinet members, and to pose for photos on the east steps of the Capitol with high officials and support staff.

In the Horseshoe's "War Room," where boxes of bills are collated and prepared for the governor's perusal every September, another set of boxes now fills space around the walls: file boxes of Davis administration documents on the electricity crisis, judicial appointments and five years of other subjects, packed and waiting to be carted away to the state archives.

Despite the historic nature of the recall and the resulting mid-term transition, there's more than a century of precedent for the transfer of power that's taking place in Sacramento. Experienced hands in both camps have been involved in previous gubernatorial transitions. Still, there is much to be done, especially because the power shift is coming three years earlier than Davis and his aides expected.

"I underestimated the work-load of a transition," said Daniel Zingale, Davis' Cabinet secretary. "There's a lot to be done in a very crunched period of time. My impression is it's as collegial as any transition I've known of, but that's the rule rather than the exception. There's a strong belief that this is an important part of democracy, a fulfillment of the people's will."

Schwarzenegger's transition team is ensconced in recently vacated offices of the political law firm Nielsen, Merksamer, which moved to newer quarters. The team's 12,000 square feet of space houses as many as 75 people working on appointments, policy issues and communications, as well as the swearing-in, which will take place in mid-November.

The office houses Patricia T. Clarey, a prime candidate to become Schwarzenegger's chief of staff. It also includes policy teams headed by Paul Miner and Joe Rodota. All three are former aides to Wilson. They are focusing on such issues as taxes, shaping the budget and an overhaul of the workers' compensation system.

The most pressing task remains the need to establish an administration. Schwarzenegger has received close to 4,000 resumes from people seeking paid and unpaid posts in the new administration.

But unlike career politicians who bring with them longtime aides, Schwarzenegger does not come to the corner office with a cadre willing to join state government. In some instances, people with government experience in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., who might have been tapped to enter the administration have declined, preferring to remain in private enterprise.

Davis advisors and Cabinet members have assembled a thick ring-binder notebook on current and upcoming issues for use by Schwarzenegger and his transition team. They are preparing an executive summary that will outline the most urgent issues the next administration will face.

Among the looming issues flagged in the executive summary are soaring health-care spending by the Department of Corrections and relevant details in the ongoing conversion to managed care begun by the Davis administration and efforts to contain state spending on prescription drugs for prisons, mental health, youth and other programs.

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