Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Total Recall

Magnet # 396:  California State Capitol Photos

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Patricia

The eyes of the world were on the California State Capitol in Sacramento on this day in 2003 as Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in as Governor on its west steps.  The event marked the end of one of the most surreal elections in American history - the recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis.  Davis had been in office since 1999 and had won a second term, but it would only last ten months.  The state was having economic difficulties, had suffered a series of blackouts during the California energy crisis, and concerns had arisen regarding Davis' campaign contributions.  There were those who felt he had engaged in corrupt behavior by repaying his donors with political favors, and they were busy sharing their opinion.  Unlike many states, however, California had a process that would allow them to prematurely rid themselves of the leader many believed to be incompetent.  Back in 1911, they had passed a law that allowed recalls of the Governor if their opponents received enough public support.  Unlike an impeachment, the politician in question during a recall need not commit a crime to be removed from office, only loose the support of the voting public.  California is one of only 18 states to have such a process and prior to then, 117 attempts had been made to unseat one of its governors, but all of them had failed.  Even Ronald Regan had been subjected to a recall effort.  But the voters were particularly worked up this time, and the recall process caught on with them.   In less than half a year, the almost 900,000 signatures necessary to qualify for a recall election had been gathered.  At that point, potential candidates began coming forward in droves.  They ranged from experienced politicians to celebrities to everyday citizens with no government background.  The requirements were considerably minimal - potential candidates had to gather 65 signatures from member of their political party and pay a $3,500 nonrefundable fee - and they made it that much easier to run.  One of the most notable moments was when Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and announced his intent to run.  But he was hardly the only famous figure to throw his hat in the ring.  During this time, a friend of mine back home was lamenting about how the rest of the country was laughing at Alabama thanks to then-Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore's quixotic fight to keep a monument of the Ten Commandments on display.  I had to point out that I hadn't heard much of it in the news over here - everyone was too busy joking about who would become the next Governor of California.  And who could blame them?  With child actor Gary Coleman, adult film star Mary Carey, Penthouse publisher Larry Flint, and columnist Arianna Huffington, who listed "mother" among her accomplishments on the ballot, all entering the race, the election quickly spiraled out of control.  Seven of the most ridiculous contenders even appeared on Who Wants to Be Governor of California? - The Debating Game, a debate that was treated like a game show and aired on GSN, or Game Show Network.  When it was time to vote on October 7, the ballot featured a whopping 135 candidates to choose from.  Davis became the second Governor in the history of the United States to be successfully recalled.  Schwarzenegger won soundly and went on to become the state's 38th Governor.  As he had a vast fortune of his own, he opted not to accept the Governor's salary of $175,000 per year.  He won a second term that will come to an end next year, and term limits prevent him from running again.  Schwarzenegger's time in office hasn't been without controversy of its own - earlier this year, one watchdog group named him among the 11 most corrupted governors in the nation.  Still, it seems unlikely that 2011 will mark the end of his political career and many are wondering if his next move won't be a run for the Senate.

Given that I'm trying to tour all of the state capitols someday, I'd certainly like to make it to the California State Capitol.  But I guess I won't make it there in time to get a photo of Schwarzenegger's name above the Governor's office.  It's the oldest one West of the Mississippi and is supposed to be very attractive, situated on 40 acres of the Capitol Park, which features several memorials.  Few state capitols can claim so much undeveloped nearby land.  Another unusual feature of the building is a set of recreated office buildings that appear as they might have around the turn of the century.  There's even a Governor's office filled with telegrams and newspapers concerning the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  In fact, the entire building was renovated as part of an involved and expensive project in the mid 1970s.  The historic structure narrowly avoided being entirely demolished and replace with a twin-tower high rise on the same grounds.  The people of California refused to let that happen, however.  Thanks to their efforts, this place remains open for future generations.  And until I make it out there, at least I have this magnet - I really like how it features an aerial image of the Capitol's exterior - so often, the Capitol pictures on my magnets are shot at ground level.  I imagine that this Capitol is like its unique state and its most memorable Governor's election and that the memories of it will stay with me long after my visit.

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