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California elects Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger dealt Davis a stunning defeat.
Schwarzenegger dealt Davis a stunning defeat.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gray Davis

(CNN) -- In a Hollywood ending to an extraordinary political drama, Austrian-born actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been voted in as governor of California.

Capping a remarkable rise from Austrian farm boy to burgeoning politician, the former bodybuilding champion promised not to let the people down after he ousted Democrat rival Gray Davis to take the reins of a state with the fifth largest economy in the world and a population of 35 million.

"I will not fail you, I will not disappoint you, and I will not let you down," Republican Schwarzenegger said in his victory speech early Wednesday.

Recalled governor Davis conceded defeat and pledged a smooth transition into power for Schwarzenegger.

"Tonight, the voters did decide it's time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgment," Davis told supporters.

"I'm calling on everyone ... to put the chaos and division of the recall behind us and do what's right for this great state of California." (Davis' speech)

With counting to be completed, 54.6 percent of voters wanted Davis out while 45.4 percent wanted to keep him. Schwarzenegger led his nearest rival Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante as replacement governor by 48 percent to 32 percent. (Exit polls)

Davis became the first California governor to be dumped from office and only the second in the nation's history to be recalled.

Schwarzenegger, who has never held public office, beat 134 other candidates on the ballot -- ranging from veteran politicians to sitcom stars to a pornography magnate -- despite being dogged by allegations of sexual harassment and claims he admired Hitler.

Cheering on as the recall vote unfolded were hundreds of residents in Schwarzenegger's home region of Austria, where he remains a favorite son. (Full story | Biography)

But Austria was far from Schwarzenegger's mind as he made his victory speech before jubilant supporters.

"I want to be the governor for the people," he said. "I want to represent everybody."

"Everything I have is because of California ... I came here with absolutely nothing, and California has given me absolutely everything. And today, California has given me the greatest gift of all, you have given me your trust by voting for me." (Victory speech)

The prize for his win -- a state mired by economic turmoil with unemployment running above the national average and a mounting budget deficit. (Ruined paradise)

The problems are so big many have predicted a tough road ahead for the governor-elect, a challenge not lost on Schwarzenegger.

"We have tough choices ahead ... Shall we rebuild our state together or shall we fight amongst ourselves?" he told his adoring crowd of supporters.

Schwarzenegger will likely assume the governor's office between November 15 and November 25.

Bustamante will remain in office as California's lieutenant governor under Schwarzenegger.

The election results will most likely not become official until November 15. The election could be certified before that date, but it is unlikely, given the complexity of the ballot and vote count.

State elections code says the winning candidate must assume office within 10 days of the official vote certification.

It is the winning candidate's prerogative to select the actual date, according to the secretary of state's office. (What happens next?)

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