Arnold Vows to Open California's Books

Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), who refers to himself as the "people's governor," spent his first full day as governor-elect thanking the voters of California for their "trust."

Schwarzenegger, 56, appeared at a hotel news conference on Wednesday, a day after winning the state's recall election that put Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search ) out of a job.

Schwarzenegger expressed confidence that he would make a seamless transition to the governor's office, but he provided no new specifics on how he plans to cure California's ills.

In his first news conference since being elected governor, Schwarzenegger said he had spoken with an array of leaders about his victory, including Nelson Mandela (search) of South Africa and President Bush, who he said promised to do "whatever is possible to help California."

"I'm looking forward to working with him and asking him for a lot, a lot of favors," Schwarzenegger said, adding that he hoped to meet with the president when he is in the state next week for fund-raisers.

• Video: Arnold's Press Conference
• Photo Essay: Total Recall

Schwarzenegger said he would make sure the federal government helps California with such problems as energy and water: "There's many things that we can do together."

Schwarzenegger broke little new ground during the news conference and reiterated many themes from the campaign trail, including a pledge to repeal the recent tripling of the car tax and a call to "open up the books" in search of a solution to the state's gaping budget deficit. He also promised again not to raise taxes.

"We don't know exactly what the current operating deficit is," he said. "What we have to do is, open up the books ... do the audit and find what the waste is. And then we have to just go through step by step," the action hero-turned-politician said.

Schwarzenegger said he was promised "a very smooth transition" by Davis, and he received similar assurances from other state leaders. He will be sworn into the office by mid-November, becoming California's 38th governor.

The Republican actor also said he was hopeful that California lawmakers would see the message voters delivered in Tuesday night's election and follow his leadership as he takes over the reins of the state.

"The legislators up there have gotten this message last night, that the people of California want change," he said.

The "Terminator" star also vowed that Hollywood will not interfere with his new job.

"I will work as much as I can, even if it is around the clock," he said. "There will be no time for movies or anything else. I will pay full attention to this job."

Schwarzenegger said his transition team is being headed by Rep. David Dreier (search), R-Calif., who was to give more details about the team Thursday.

Schwarzenegger's proposals will have to go through a Legislature controlled by Democrats angry over what some of them consider a hostile takeover of the state's top political job. And he will have to quickly deliver a budget that can close the giant deficit.

It is an unusually fast transition, particularly for a political neophyte who declared his candidacy just two months ago.

"The last 60 days has been pretty difficult as well, but I would say there's probably never been a governor elect who's stepped into a situation with the challenges he'll be confronting here in California. But that's why he wanted the job," spokesman Rob Stutzman said.

Schwarzenegger takes office as the Republican Party's lone statewide officeholder in a state where the congressional delegation and both houses of the Legislature are heavily Democratic.

And while the voters gave Schwarzenegger a resounding victory, they lean Democratic, too -- 44 percent to 35 percent Republican.

"I think he's in for a rude awakening to the fact that he won't be able to get done all the things he has said because politics just doesn't work that way," said Fresno resident Don Lesher, 71, a registered Democrat who voted yes on the recall and for Republican Tom McClintock. "Unfortunately, everybody is voting along party lines, rather than what's best for the state."

Still, more voters supported Schwarzenegger, 3.6 million, than voted against recalling Davis, 3.5 million -- an outcome Schwarzenegger aides touted as a mandate after weeks of predictions from Democrats that the winner might triumph with a small percentage of the vote.

"The fact that he got more votes than Gray Davis puts him in a position of strength," said Allan Hoffenblum, a GOP consultant. "There's going to be some Democrats up there who are going to want to play ball reasonably with Arnold Schwarzenegger."

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Schwarzenegger had 3,743,431 votes, compared with 2,432,463 for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. On the recall question, 4,415,398 voters, or 55.4 percent, were in favor of ousting Davis, while 3,559,436, or 44.6 percent were opposed.

Bustamante, Schwarzenegger's only major Democratic opponent on the recall ballot, and other Democratic officeholders were quick to say they would work with the new governor. But they also said he needed to get to work on his plans.

"With the campaign now behind him, Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger has the obligation and responsibility to lay out how he will put our fiscal house in order and repair the economy, and it's going to be a tall order," state Treasurer Phil Angelides said, while pledging to do his "level best" to work with Schwarzenegger.

But even if lawmakers and voters grant him a honeymoon period, Schwarzenegger's toughest challenges may loom in the form of his own campaign-trail promises.

In glowing stump speeches and high-octane rallies, Schwarzenegger told voters fed up with years in which they endured the energy crisis, budget deficits, rising fees and partisan gridlock that he would clean up Sacramento, bring back jobs and restore luster to Sacramento.

"For the first time, we'll have somebody who will probably listen to the people and figure out what it is that has to be done, not the same old thing the way politics goes," said Jim Hall, 62, as he worked out at a health club in Camarillo. "Bring on Arnold. He'll fix it. Gray Davis is history."

Schwarzenegger's toughest and first challenge: the looming, $8 billion deficit. It will grow by $4 billion if Schwarzenegger makes good on his promise to immediately repeal this year's tripling of the car tax.

Much of California's budget is committed to specific programs by law, leaving the new governor potentially little room to maneuver.

"He's got to tackle a budget crisis that if it could have been fixed by people far more familiar with the state budget than he is, it would have been fixed," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist. "We're raising too little revenue for the amount of money we spend. He's going to have to raise taxes and-or cut programs.

"He's got a very, very difficult task in front of him, and he's never had any experience that's remotely like it."

Davis, meanwhile, continued to use his authority as governor Wednesday, announcing the appointments of seven judges. He has appointed nearly four dozen judges since the Oct. 7 recall date was scheduled July 23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.