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Gray Davis

Joseph Graham Davis, Jr. (born December 26, 1942), best known as Gray Davis, is an American politician, presently serving as the 37th Governor of California since 1999. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Born in New York City, Davis moved to California with his family as a child in 1954. He earned a degree in history at Stanford University in 1964, then returned to New York to attend Columbia University law school. After completing the program in 1967 he entered active duty in the United States Army, serving in the Vietnam War until 1969.

Davis returned to California and entered politics, serving as Executive Secretary and Chief of Staff to governor Jerry Brown from 1974 to 1981, as Assemblyman[?] from the 43rd district (Los Angeles County) from 1983 to 1987, then as State Controller until 1994. He was Lieutenant Governor until 1998, when he was elected Governor with a landslide 57.97% of the vote, defeating Republican Dan Lungren[?] who had 38.4%.

With his political successes, he was strongly viewed as a possible Democratic candidate for President in either 2000 or 2004. The energy crisis of 2001 and budget deficit of 2003 have sharply hurt his reputation, and any talk of Presidential candidacy has completely evaporated.

His early administration focused on balancing the state budget and education reform. An electricity shortage in the summer of 2001 led to massive state debt — and widespread grumbling about Davis's administration — as California was forced to negotiate unfavorable long-term contracts with power suppliers in neighboring states. Davis's popularity recovered somewhat months later as the shortage was shown to be at least in part manufactured by market manipulation by companies such as Enron, though his buckling to the resultant price-gouging remained a negative factor in his 2002 re-election bid.

Davis was re-elected in November 2002 following a long and bitter campaign against Republican candidate Bill Simon, marked by accusations of ethical lapses on both sides and widespread voter apathy. He was elected with 47.4% of the vote to Simon's 42.4%.

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Widespread disapproval

On April 14, 2003, the California Field Poll reported that Davis had a record-low job approval rating of just 24%, the lowest ever in the 55 years of the poll. Voters cited disapproval of the state's record $34.6 billion budget shortfall, growing unemployment, and dubious campaign contibutor connections. Davis has tried to maintain a middle-of-the-road approach, but he has ultimately alienated many of the state's liberals who view him as too conservative, and many conservatives who view him as too liberal. Many were upset that in trying to balance the budget, Davis cut spending for schools while increasing spending for prisons. Many attributed the proposal to the prison guard union's generous donations to Davis' re-election campaign. Californians were also upset that he did not announce the record budget deficit until after his re-election. Some critics accused Davis of overstating the budget deficit, so he could cut spending and raise taxes beyond what was necessary and then claim victory as California's savior when the deficit clears up.

Recall effort

Following his re-election, a concerted effort to recall Davis from office was undertaken and the Recall Gray Davis Committee was created by conservative Howard Kaloogian[?]. The committee must collect signatures from 12% of the number of Californians who voted in the last gubernatorial election for the recall vote to take place. This means they must collect 897,158 signatures from registered voters by September 2, 2003. If a recall vote were to take place, the California Field Poll revealed that 46% of Californians would vote to recall and 43% would not—numbers within the poll's margin of error. If Davis were removed from office, voters would be asked to choose from any candidates who wanted to run from any party. Those opposed to the recall argue that a special election would cost $25-40 million and that removing Davis from office would not make the budget deficit go away. By mid-June 2003, recall advocates claimed to have collected 800,000 signatures supporting the recall. They set a goal of 1.2 million to provide a buffer in case of invalid signatures. By June, the petition drive began receiving nationwide media attention and seemed to be likely to make it on the ballot.

Job approval history

Just after Davis entered office he enjoyed a 54% approval rating and just 15% disapproval in March 1999. His numbers peaked in February 2000 with 62% approval and 20% disapproval, coinciding with the peak of the Dot-com boom in California. By January 2001, his numbers were still good, but slipping slightly with 57% approval, 34% disapproval. In May 2001, the start of the energy crisis, his numbers plunged to 36% approval, 55% disapproval. His numbers recovered slightly over the next year, peaking again in July 2002, this time with 41% approval, 49% disapproval. His numbers remained fairly flat until April 2003 when he had only 24% approval, 65% disapproval. All numbers are from the California Field Poll.

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