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Joe Guzzardi: Recalling my run for governor

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Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013 3:10 pm

Last week marked an important 10th anniversary for Californians and, in particular, for me. In Oct. 2003, I was one of 135 gubernatorial candidates in the special Recall Gray Davis election.

Other California governors including Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown and Pete Wilson had faced recall attempts, all of which failed. After the Oct. 7 votes were counted, Arnold Schwarzenegger had unseated Davis who became only the second governor is U.S. history to be recalled.

The first, in 1921, was North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier. California is one of 18 states that allow recall elections.

The California Digital Library, part of the University of California, has archived most of the candidate’s websites which made it easy for me to relive my days on the campaign trail. Campaigning was more work than I anticipated. But looking back, the experience was not only enlightening but fun. Being able to say, “I ran for California governor and was on the ballot” trumps most cocktail party chatter.

My opponents were, to say the least, interesting. Among the also rans was Arianna Huffington who sold her popular website to AOL for $315 million. Peter Ueberroth, organizer of the 1984 Olympics and once Major League Baseball’s commissioner, dropped out of the race in early September. Instead of vowing to Californians that he would solve the state’s budget crisis and calm social turmoil, Ueberroth should have focused on his reinstatement of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays who MLB had banned for their casual affiliation with gambling casinos. Being a friend to Mantle and Mays resonates better than tedious campaign promises that voters know can’t be kept.

Some have fallen from their once lofty perches. Former Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the California State Assembly, Cruz Bustamante is out of politics. Although he pledged not to run in 2003 because as a Democrat he would syphon off votes from Davis, Bustamante plunged ahead anyway. Bustamante finished a distant second to Schwarzenegger. In 2006, Steve Poizner defeated Bustamante for California Insurance Commissioner. Bustamante’s campaign was tainted because of insurance industry contributions which, although they represented conflict of interest, he refused to return. In 2012, Bustamante’s supporters floated a rumor that he would run for U.S. Congress in California’s 21st District. Bustamante decided against it, effectively ending his political career

Schwarzenegger served out the balance of Davis’ term and two more full terms that he was elected to. But by the end of his second term, Schwarzenegger admitted that while married to Maria Schriver, he fathered a child with his Guatemalan housekeeper Patty Baena. The housekeeper had worked for the Schwarzenegger family for 20 years. At one point, Schriver and Baena were both pregnant at the same time.

For inexplicable reasons, Schwarzenegger later felt compelled to write an indiscreet, tell all book titled “Total Recall.” In its review, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the book is “creepy and cruel.”

Davis is out of politics — -what a blessing that must be — -and works in Los Angeles for the venerable law firm Loeb and Loeb. As a Stanford undergraduate, Davis played on the golf team and had a 2 handicap. His new schedule allows him more time on the links to get back to his college playing level.

As for me, I retired from the Lodi Unified School District after teaching English as a Second Language for 25 years. When I’m asked, I say that my years in Lodi were the best of my life.

Joe Guzzardi sums up his performance in the recall election, “I got less votes than Schwarzenegger but more votes that a bunch of other candidates.” Contact Joe at

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