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The Recall Campaign

Davis Is Humble, Confident in Session

September 04, 2003

Dennis Richmond, KTVU: Emotionally, how are you handling this? How do you feel about this?

Gov. Gray Davis: It is not an easy time for my wife, Sharon, or I, and it is not fun seeing everyone condemn you up and down the 24-hour news cycle.

I know that the problems we deal with pale in comparison to the problems of the people that I represent. I have their message. I know they are angry. This has been a humbling experience. But I know they want me to fight for their future, so I have specific things to get done, including re-regulating energy. We'll get to them.

Richmond: In acknowledging this unprecedented recall, you've admitted that you made mistakes.... What do you feel that you did wrong and what will you change?

Davis: The biggest thing that I will change is to stay connected to the people of the state. When I was first elected, I had town hall meetings, I spoke with people and learned a lot and got a lot of good ideas. Governing should be a two-way street....

Richmond: Now, you said you made mistakes. What are you saying that you did wrong?

Davis: I think that I was too slow to act on the energy crisis. This is what we were facing, faced with. People ought to know. Everyone told me to raise consumer rates even though the promise of deregulation was that rates would go down. I felt something was amiss, either with the utilities or energy companies, and consumers should not have to pay the full load. Everyone asked me to do it. I hesitated, hesitated because I did not want to do it. Eventually we raised the rates 10 to 20%, not the 400% we wanted.

Dan Borenstein, Contra Costa Times: Governor, you recently said, "What is happening here is part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win." But Bustamante says that voters who signed the recall petition were "sending a real strong message to the people in the state of California, especially its leadership in Sacramento." Governor, was there a message and, if so, what was it?

Davis: There is no question there was a message, and the message was that people are angry. I understand their lives are not going as well as they were a couple of years ago, and I understand I'm the brunt of their concern.

But I do believe that at the heart of this, in the beginning, were a group of Republicans that were upset they could not win last November's election. They did try to do what they've done to President Clinton, to try to impeach him in 1998 after they could not defeat him in '96....

So that effort by Republicans got the ball rolling. But they did tap into some genuine anger that I recognize.

Borenstein: You came into office promising to govern from the center, governor. But after the recall came, you started to describe yourself as a progressive. What are you, a centrist or a progressive? And why have you suddenly started to describe yourself as a progressive?

Davis: I said in my first address that I would take a good idea from wherever it came from, the right the center or the left, and I've maintained that posture from the very beginning. I do believe government's role is to help people, to be a safety net. And I do believe that many of the policies that I've pursued fill that overall goal. So I do not find any inconsistency. Being a centrist does not mean that you take the middle line on every issue....

Pilar Morreno, political editor of La Opinion: Governor, while community classrooms are closing, class sizes are increasing, you provided a 34% pay raise for prison guards whose union generated against your campaign? Why?

Davis: I know it is a conventional criticism and a good question. Looking at the budget, the budget this year has $40 billion-plus for education, K through 12 and community college, state college and university, and about $5 billion for the prisons. All of the raises given last year are being renegotiated.... At the end of the day, you will see concessions from all organizations, including the prison guards.... .

Morreno: In the recent budget, tuition fees for colleges and universities were raised 25, 30%.... How did you stand allowing that, calling yourself the education governor?

Davis: Let me tell you how it happened. The Republicans took this position: They would not raise taxes at all cost. They would rather shoot their mother than increase any taxes. I say that figuratively. But there was no circumstances under which they would raise taxes, even though they did it, $7 billion for Gov. Wilson. What did that mean?

The Republican budget said they wanted to virtually eliminate the freshman class at the University of California in 2004, and reduce by 40% the admissions to the Cal State system, and increase the fees to community colleges by $26. We were able to fight most of those off. But the net result were more increases in fees than I would like.

But still, there is a freshman class. The fees at the community colleges went up to $18, which is by far the lowest in America. The next lowest is at $25.

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