California Votes: The 2002 Governor's Race & The Recall That Made History


As the effort to recall Governor Gray Davis swirled toward the polls in the spring of 2003, the IGS publications staff was just putting the finishing touches on the definitive account of his election in the autumn of 2002. Every four years since 1990, the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, has assembled the key players in the governor's race-campaign managers and consultants, pollsters and political operatives, money people and the media- to assess what really happened.

But, as our editing progressed, so did the recall effort. And about the time we were ready to send the book to press, it became clear that the recall would reach the ballot and, quite possibly, undo the results of the election. We decided to hold up publication and include the recall as the final chapters in the book. The result is a publication as unique as the recall itself: a book that combines an in-depth look at the 2002 election that put Gray Davis in the governorship with a behind-the-scenes analysis of the recall election that plucked him from office less than a year later.

This volume, the latest on the quadrennial gatherings that draw what one reporter called "the innermost of California's political insiders," details the planning behind Davis's preemptive strike that took Richard Riordan out in the Republican primary, and the dynamics of his hairsbreadth victory over Bill Simon in the general election. And here, too, is a compelling first-person narrative of the angry groundswell that drove him from office. Reading the two in juxtaposition, one is struck by a sense that the recall's success and Davis's failure were almost an inevitable climax to the election of 2002.

As IGS Director Bruce Cain observed, "We've discovered that with the passage of time people tend to be more willing to speak frankly about the reasons why they did what they did in the heat of the battle, and we have learned a lot of extraordinary things about how decisions are made." The verbatim transcripts and expert commentary published here will serve as a text for students of politics, a must read for political junkies, and a handbook for the next election.

Gerald C. Lubenow, editor
Publication date: 
November 28, 2003
Publication type: 
California Politics & Government