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Davis Lets Gov.-Elect Have Run of Capital

October 23, 2003|Miguel Bustillo | Times Staff Writer

On the day Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and the trailing media horde descended on the state capital, outgoing Gov. Gray Davis was away, fulfilling the ceremonial functions of a California leader, boasting of his accomplishments while serving as host at a women's conference in Long Beach.

The Democratic governor was initially scheduled to talk transition Wednesday in Sacramento with the Republican chosen by voters to succeed him in this month's recall election. But Davis quipped that he had put off the meeting for a day to perform his scheduled duties at the 2003 California Governor's Conference for Women, telling Schwarzenegger, "I have a date with 10,000 women."

In a lunchtime speech before the audience of businesswomen at the Long Beach Convention Center, Davis highlighted his record of hiring women to positions of power. More than 40% of his appointees were women -- more than any prior governor's, Davis said. They included Lynn Schenk, his chief of staff, the first woman to hold that job in California.

Showing no trace of bitterness about his ouster, Davis pledged to work with the new governor to ensure a smooth transfer of power. He promised to work for the people of the state until his final day in office, sometime around Nov. 15, by which time the election results are required to be certified.

"I come here before you today as the luckiest man in California," Davis told the conference; he was flanked by female executives and the keynote speaker, actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Citing his long record in public service, from assemblyman to controller and lieutenant governor before becoming governor, Davis added, "I am fortunate to have been able to serve my state and country for 30 years."

Davis sounded at times like a campaigner giving a stump speech as he also listed his accomplishments in office.

He mentioned as some of his biggest successes the Cal-Grant program, which extends financial assistance to students for college; health-care reforms; rising school test scores; and his support of abortion rights.

He was uncharacteristically loose for such a famously stiff politician, and he saved the ultimate credit for his wife, Sharon. She had helped organize the conference, the 17th since former Gov. George Deukmejian began the event.

The mention of the state's first lady, who also spoke at the conference, garnered Davis his loudest applause.

"Sharon Davis," the exiting governor said, "I love you so much."

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