Arnold Schwarzenegger was first elected as Governor of California in the 2003 recall elections and won re-election in 2006. It is the first elected office he has held, but was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, in which he served from 1990 to 1993 and was Chairman of California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Governor Pete Wilson.
Schwarzenegger is a registered Republican. He describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate (i.e., he is pro-choice and supports taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research). Schwarzenegger backed Republican President Ronald Reagan (another movie star turned politician) while Reagan was in office, and campaigned for George H.W. Bush in 1988. However, he chastised fellow Republicans during the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. Sensing an opportunity to affect the outcome of the 2004 Presidential race, Schwarzenegger campaigned in Ohio for Republican George W. Bush in the closing days of the campaign.
Schwarzenegger's first political appointment has been to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, on which he served from 1990 to 1993. He was nominated by George H. W. Bush, who called him "Conan the Republican."
In an interview on October 29, 2002, with MSNBC's Chris Matthews at Chapman University, Schwarzenegger explained why he is a Republican:
- "Well, I think because a lot of people don't know why I'm a Republican, I came first of all from a socialistic country which is Austria and when I came over here in 1968 with the presidential elections coming up in November, I came over in October, I heard a lot of the press conferences from both of the candidates Humphrey and Nixon, and Humphrey was talking about more government is the solution, protectionism, and everything he said about government involvement sounded to me more like Social Democratic Party of Austrian socialism."
- "Then when I heard Nixon talk about it, he said open up the borders, the consumers should be represented there ultimately and strengthen the military and get the government off our backs. I said to myself, what is this guy's party affiliation? I didn't know anything at that point. So I asked my friend, what is Nixon? He's a Republican. And I said, I am a Republican. That's how I became a Republican."
Regarding a run for public office, in 1999, he told Talk magazine that "I think about it many times." He also said, "The possibility is there because I feel it inside. I feel there are a lot of people standing still and not doing enough. And there's a vacuum."
Venturing into politics
Schwarzenegger was appointed Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in the administration of George H. W. Bush from 1990 to 1993. During that time, Schwarzenegger traveled across the U.S. promoting physical fitness to kids and lobbying all 50 governors in support of school fitness programs. "He would hit sometimes two or three governors in a day in his own airplane, at his own expense, somewhere around $4,000 an hour," said George Otott, his chief of staff at the time. "When he walked in, it wasn't about the governor, it was about Arnold," said Otott, a retired Marine. "He has what we in the military call a command presence. He becomes the number one attention-getter."
He later served as Chairman for the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Governor Pete Wilson. Schwarzenegger scored his first real political success on November 5, 2002, when Californians approved his personally crafted and sponsored Proposition 49, the "After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002," an initiative to make state grants available for after-school programs.
Propositions 57 and 58
To fulfill the first two points, he urged California voters to pass Proposition 57 and Proposition 58 in the March 2, 2004, election, which authorized the sale of $15 billion in bonds and mandated balanced budgets, respectively. Despite initially tepid support from the public, the combination of heavy campaigning by Schwarzenegger, endorsements from a number of leading Democrats, and warnings about the dire consequences should the propositions fail to pass, led to majority votes in favor of the two propositions. Prop. 57 passed with 63.3% of the votes in favor and Prop. 58 passed with 71.0% in favor. He accomplished the third point when he signed a workers' compensation reform bill on April 19, 2004.
Schwarzenegger convinced the Democrat-controlled state legislature to approve the package by threatening to take the issue directly to state voters in a November ballot initiative if the legislature did not act. The economic moves had the effect of up-grading the International Bond Market's projections for the California market at least three points. After Governor Schwarzenegger addressed the finances, the bond-rating went up three points and saved the State of California over $20 billion in bond-rated interest over ten years.
Schwarzenegger was later criticized for reneging on his campaign pledges not to take money from special interests and for failing to answer directly the sexual harassment allegations raised by the Los Angeles Times immediately preceding the recall election. However, Schwarzenegger made a point shortly after becoming governor of voluntarily attending a training course conducted by the state Attorney General's office on preventing sexual harassment (along with several members of his senior staff). Schwarzenegger continues to collect campaign contributions from private interests at a greater rate than any politician in California history, including Gray Davis, whom he criticized on that very issue.
Taxation and economic issues
In March 2004, libertarian policy research foundation, The Cato Institute, rated him 1st in their 2004 fiscal policy report card of the tax and spending policies of the nation's governors. In July 2004, however, Schwarzenegger and the state legislature deadlocked, failing to approve the state budget on time.
- Special Interest Contributions: Top Contributors To Arnold By Industry Arnoldwatch.org; retrieved December 1, 2006.
- NBC interview
- Moore, Stephen and Stephen Slivinski. Policy Analysis: Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2004 Cato Institute March 1, 2005; retrieved December 1, 2006.
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