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Interview With Sharon Davis, Wife of Governor Gray Davis

Aired August 22, 2003 - 20:07   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on now from the White House to who will occupy the governor's mansion in California, current Governor Gray Davis is fighting the political battle of his life as he awaits the October 7 recall election. But he's not fighting alone. His wife, Sharon Davis, has been called his secret weapon.
And earlier, I spoke with the first lady of California. And I asked her just how hard has it been to deal with the recall campaign.


SHARON DAVIS, WIFE OF CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR GRAY DAVIS: You're so busy, you don't really get much time to sit around and worry about anything that is happening. You're just continually doing something every day to move the campaign forward.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, it has been a brutal campaign. Your husband's been called a liar, a failure, a mismanager. How difficult is that to hear about the man you love and have been married to for 20 years?

DAVIS: My husband is a very honorable man. He's worked very hard in politics. Nobody in California has been elected to statewide office more than my husband. He's been elected five times.

And so I think people understand the rhetoric of campaigns, that, during campaigns, things are said that are not true, because people are trying to get an advantage in the race.

O'BRIEN: Former President Bill Clinton has been advising your husband. What kind of advice is he giving?


Well, he's a very good friend of ours. And he's been giving him advice on communicating the message. And I don't think there is any greater communicator in the country than Bill Clinton. But a part of what he's done also is giving him encouragement.

O'BRIEN: So when we see what some folks have called a kinder, gentler Gray Davis, a man who is now talking about his family and his spirituality, are you saying this is a concerted effort to change his appearance?

DAVIS: I think the difference in this election, it has gotten such national attention. Even our last governor's race didn't get this much attention.

So I think people are really getting to see Gray, as opposed to just reading about him in the newspapers. And when they see him, they see that he is actually very warm and is a very sincere person.

O'BRIEN: Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger is qualified to be the governor of California?

DAVIS: You know what? I actually know his wife, Maria, well. They're wonderful people. He's obviously extraordinarily intelligent.

But I think, with the compact nature of this campaign, he didn't have much time to get to understand the issues. And so I believe he's smart enough, absolutely. I think he's a good actor. He's done very well in the entertainment industry. He seems to do well on the business side. But being governor and running the fifth largest economy requires you to have a really good understanding of how to run a government the size of California.

And I think, if he had taken a little bit more time to get that understanding, he could give very clear answers about what he plans to do for the future of California.

O'BRIEN: You have said that there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about your husband's record.

DAVIS: Right.

O'BRIEN: Is there anything you look back at and say: You know what, that was a mistake, and that was a mistake that he takes responsibility for, and, boy, I wish we hadn't done that?

DAVIS: Anybody who has served in public office for 30 years, if they told you they would have never done anything different, they're not telling you the truth, because, in hindsight, there are many times when you could look back and say, OK, now that I have 20/20 hindsight vision, I can see that I might have done this quite differently.

But I think most people look at the outcome. What was the outcome of what he did, for example, on the energy crisis? When almost half the country went dark just a week ago, California, even though we have had 100-degree weather in California, kept the lights on because of things my husband had done, building power plants, promoting conservation, and locking down a supply of energy, so that Californians would have a secure and very cost-effective approach to making sure we have energy in this state.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but some people would say, OK, but when you look at the outcome, then, let's look at California's huge budget deficit. Let's look at the number of companies who are fleeing the state.

DAVIS: Right.

O'BRIEN: They would say, you know what? The governor's outcome is bad.

DAVIS: Well, you know what? That's another misconception.

Even though, over the last two years, the United States has lost three million jobs, California has actually gained about 800,000. So, again, that's another myth that has been put out there by the opposition, because they're trying to paint a very negative picture. And if having a deficit was grounds to be removed from office, 47 governors and the president of the United States would be up for recall right now.

We are in a national economy. We're part of the national economy, which has suffered and is causing shortfalls in states across the country.

O'BRIEN: What happens if he loses, he loses the recall vote? What happens on October 8 if he wakes up and he's no longer governor?

DAVIS: My husband went to Stanford undergraduate and Columbia Law School. I think he's going to be fine. But we think we can win this race, because we believe in the fairness of California voters.

O'BRIEN: You say, if he loses, he'll be fine. But is it the end of his political career? Is he done?

DAVIS: Well, he only planned to serve two terms as governor. He never had aspirations to run for president of the United States.

He feels like he's done quite a bit being in California. There is so much that he's accomplished that, if he looked back, I think he'll be very proud of what he's accomplished. And you know what? He puts his faith in the voters.

O'BRIEN: California's first lady, Sharon Davis, nice to see you. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

DAVIS: It was great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.



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