Mayor James E. West said Wednesday he regrets his actions that led voters to recall him in a special election sparked by allegations he used a city computer to woo gay men over the Internet.
"I have no regrets as far as being mayor the last two years. I have regrets in my personal life," West said at a news conference Wednesday, a day after he was recalled. "I wish those things never occurred. I am embarrassed by them."
In California on Tuesday, Republican state Sen. John Campbell was elected to a vacant congressional seat in a race that placed a spotlight on national immigration policy.
West, 54, must leave his position when the election results are certified Dec. 16. He has not been charged with a crime, but FBI agents seized computers from his home as part of an investigation.
West, a former Boy Scout executive and sheriff's deputy, was elected mayor in 2003 after serving more than two decades as a conservative Republican in the state Legislature, where he voted against gay-friendly bills.
The recall campaign began after the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported in May that West was a closeted homosexual who visited gay chat rooms using his city-owned laptop computer, and offered internships and other favors to young men he hoped to have sex with.
A little more than half of the 110,000 ballots mailed to voters were counted in the first batch of results released Tuesday night. Of those, 38,718, or 65 percent, voted to recall West, while 20,681, or 35 percent, voted to retain him.
The recall election was launched by Shannon Sullivan, a single mother with a high-school education and no legal background. She shepherded her petitions for a recall vote through superior and state high court challenges brought by the mayor's lawyers.
"It's been a long, hard seven months," she said after Tuesday's election. "Elected officials need to be held to higher standards." Shannon has said she started the campaign after finding herself at a loss to explain newspaper reports of West's behavior to her 9-year-old son.
West, who described himself as the victim of a "brutal outing," has acknowledged visiting gay Web sites and having relationships with young men but denied doing anything illegal. In a newspaper ad, he acknowledged making "personal mistakes" but insisted he had "never done anything to harm our city."
California's House race was to fill the vacancy created by Republican Christopher Cox, who represented the Orange County district in the House for 17 years before resigning to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.
With all precincts reporting and absentee ballots counted, Campbell had 41,450 votes, or 45 percent in unofficial returns, followed by Democratic candidate Steve Young with 25,926 votes, or 28 percent, in one of the most reliably Republican districts in the nation.'
Third-party candidate Jim Gilchrist, a founder of the Minuteman Project border patrol group who made illegal immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, was third with 23,237 votes, or nearly 25 percent.
Gilchrist, a retired accountant and former Marine, complained Campbell would not go far enough to curb illegal immigration.
The issue resonated with voters frustrated with a growing population of illegal immigrants in suburban Orange County, which is less than a two-hour drive from Mexico.
"We need to have people able to come here to work, but come legally and not come permanently," said voter Al Corfield, 67.
Others were disappointed Gilchrist seemed to be a one-issue candidate.
"What else is he going to offer people?" said Rene Guns, a Belgian immigrant who voted for Campbell. "They're violating our law, but you can't base a campaign on that."