California Gov. Gray Davis can be forgiven for looking over his shoulder these days — nearly 200 candidates say they want his job if he loses a recall election. He and his wife Sharon spoke to NBC’s Lester Holt on Monday about the campaign — and about one of his chief Republican challengers, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Read the transcript of their conversation, below.
Lester Holt: Governor, no doubt over the weekend, you saw that Time/CNN poll, 54 percent say “No,” to the question, should you be kept in office. Does that surprise you?
Gov. Gray Davis: Well there’s no question that there’s a lot of frustration and disappointment out here. I get it. I’m doing my best to work harder to solve peoples’ problems, and I hope that now, that we have a budget behind us, we will have the time to keep solving problems for people. And I think at the end of the day, Lester, Californians are very fair-minded. I trust them and I know they’ll do the right thing, on October 7.
Holt: Mrs. Davis, let me ask you. You have dismissed some of those running against your husband, or running for his seat, suggesting that there’s been a circus or a side show. Do you put Arnold Schwarzenegger in that category?
Sharon Davis: Well, a circus is not my description. That’s a description that has been in major newspapers and headlines and on all national news programs. So, I’m just talking about what’s being said out there about California, because of this recall effort.
IS SCHWARZENEGGER LEGITIMATE?
Holt: Well, back to the question, though, regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger, do you see him as a legitimate candidate?
Sharon Davis: Well, he’s on the ballot and obviously he has a lot of fans across this country and around the world. So, I think the way that this recall is set up, it sounds like anybody who wants to put their name on the ballot, is considered a candidate.
Holt: Governor, you’re reminding us of your experience. That same poll over the weekend found that 45 percent of California voters believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger is qualified to govern. Do you consider this now a race, even though it’s over your recall, a race between you and Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Gov. Davis: Well, there’s no question that people will take a look at what their choices are, and I think Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the first to tell you, he’s got a lot — a long ways to go to explain what he would do as governor.
TRUSTING HIS LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
Holt: Let me ask you about your Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant Governor Bustamante. Did he consult with you before he put his name in the ring?
Gov. Davis: Well, he called me the day that he was announcing. He told me that he was a hundred percent against the recall, and I believe it’s important to note, Lester, that all Democrats, the nine presidential candidates, our two United States senators, senators Feinstein and Boxer, the congressional delegation, the legislative delegation, all the constitutional offices, they’re all against the recall.
Holt: But you’ll agree it sends a mixed message that he’s against the recall, but he’s saying, if the voters want you out, he’s happy to take the job. Is he being disloyal? What did you tell him?
Gov. Davis: Look, I didn’t ask a single person to stay out of this recall. People make their own decisions whether to run or not. Some got in and got out. Some we thought were going to get in, never got in at all. But what’s important is, the message we all send in the united fashion, which this recall, is an insult to the eight million people who went to the polls last November and made a decision that I should be governor. It [will] cost $70 million, which is not in anyone’s budget; money better spent on education, health care and public safety.
Holt: Mrs. Davis, what do you think about Lieutenant Governor Bustamante getting into the race? Do you think he’s being disloyal to your husband?
Sharon Davis: No, I don’t. You know, Cruz is a very good and decent person and I believe exactly what he said. He’s against the recall. He wants to let people know that the recall is a bad idea. But there were some people that felt that there should be a Democrat on the other side, among those 150 candidates that were going to be on the ballot. So, I don’t feel there was any disloyalty on his part. I think he’s going to help us defeat the recall and I think he’s going to be there to help his... governor, as he has over the first part of Gray’s administration, for the second half.
WHERE’S THE ANGER?
Holt: Your husband’s steady. Many people say he’s robotic in the face of all of this. Should he be more emotional? Most people would be just outraged, angry that someone was trying to put them out of a job they rightfully earned.
Sharon Davis: He is angry, but he’s angry because this recall is creating such havoc in the State of California. He’s angry because there are people who are trying to overturn eight million voters, who decided last November that he would be governor. But you know, everybody comes at this differently and you don’t have a recall just because somebody doesn’t pound the table and scream and yell enough.
Holt: And governor, I should allow you to answer that question as well, obviously, about your demeanor through all this.
Gov. Davis: You know, I learned a long time ago, Lester, that it doesn’t help me to rant and rave and pound the walls. Do I get upset over this? You better believe it. Trust me. I don’t like this, but I am trying to suppress those negative feelings and channel my energies into doing something positive for the people I work for, the people of this great state.
HELP FROM THE CLINTONS? Holt: Can you tell us what advice former President Clinton gave you?
Gov. Davis: No, but I am honored that he has taken the time to share his thoughts and advice with me. I have respect for him and I believe any American would trade the economy that occurred under his watch for this one, in a heart beat. Since I’ve been governor, we’ve created 800,000 new jobs and since President Bush took office, the country’s lost three million jobs. So, clearly when people are working, when the economy’s doing better, a lot of the problems that are occurring out in California, go away.
Holt: Will Bill Clinton or Senator Clinton campaign for you in California?
Gov. Davis: Well, I haven’t specifically asked them but, uh, — I guess I’m asking them now. They’re very well thought of in California. People remember [them] both very positively, and I think they can bring independent validation to some of the good work that we’ve done and that we are trying very hard. I have gotten the message. I understand a lot of people signed the recall. We are trying very hard every day, to solve peoples’ problems.
Holt: Bill Lockner, the attorney general, has warned you not to conduct what he calls a “trash-and-puke” campaign. He’s worried that you’re going to go negative. Are you?
Gov. Davis: I will spend some time interacting with the other candidates. I’ll do it in a positive and honorable fashion.
Holt: All right. We’re going to end right there. Gray Davis, Mrs. Davis, appreciate both of you joining us. Thanks so much.
Gov. Davis: Thank you. Thank you, Lester.
Sharon Davis: Thank you, thank you Lester.