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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2003-11-03

The Wild Ride Along The Road To Recall
By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger gestures as he leaves a rally on his custom "Running Man" in Bakersfield, California.
If you haven't heard, those wacky Californians are at it again. Fed up with the performance of California governor Gray Davis, a group led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) decided to collect a million signatures to petition for a special election to have Davis removed from office. Well, it worked and the race was on. For $3,500 and 65 signatures, any citizen of California could get their name on the ballot.

My journey down the "road to recall" began back in June as the movement to oust Davis started to take shape. Over the next 4 months, it was "all recall, all the time." A day didn't go by without covering at least one of the 135 candidates as they tried to sell themselves to the people. In addition to shadowing Davis and top candidates, there was the 26 year-old computer programmer selling thong underwear, the college student who pledged to legalize ferrets and don't forget former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and his "simple man" campaign. Sadly, I never got to the chance to hang with Gary Coleman or porn actress Mary Carey.

With one week until election day, gubernatorial hopefuls pulled out all the stops as they desperately stumped throughout the state hoping to coerce undecided voters to join their team. I followed front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger down the home stretch as he took over 200 journalists on a 13 city bus tour and fly-around throughout California dubbed the "California Comeback Express."

The tour kicked off at the San Diego Convention Center under a cloud of controversy as a Los Angeles Times story broke alleging that Arnold had groped several women on movie sets some 20 years ago. The crowd seemed to dismiss the allegations and they cheered fanatically as the actor took the stage. After a short speech and an apology to the crowd for his alleged sexual misconduct, a giant curtain dropped revealing a custom tour bus adorned with a huge mug-shot of the actor on the side.

Arnold hopped on the bus and did a slow lap around the convention hall, waving from the open door to the Twisted Sister song "We're Not Gonna Take It." We were on our way.

As we headed north in a caravan of six buses, I wondered if Arnold had planned on running for governor years ago and would only star in movies with titles relevant to an election. The two lead buses, occupied by Arnold and his VIP's, were named after his action films "Running Man" and "Total Recall", how ironic is that? Hollywood could not have scripted this election any better. The four media buses were not as fancy as Arnold's and were simply called "Predator", 1 through 4.

Our first stop of the tour was at the fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. Thousands of people were corralled into a ring of metal barriers. They cheered as the four media buses pulled in to the lot, thinking that their action hero had arrived. To their disappointment, reporters and photographers filed off of the buses. Folks at the next events must have seen that on TV because they never made that mistake again.

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has his photo taken with an unidentified man after an "Ask Arnold" town hall meeting at Pueblo Building Materials October 3, 2003 in Santa Clarita, California.
The media access at this first event was fairly decent, but the events over the next few days would prove challenging. With limited space in the buffer and heavy presence of pseudo secret service-type agents that often used brute force to guard Arnold, it was difficult to get up close and personal.

The options were simple: fight your way through the sign-toting crowd to get up the stage, risk missing the whole event by waiting on the sides of the stage to hopefully get escorted onto the stage by security, or shoot from one of two risers. The problem with the risers was when we arrived to an event, local media had already filled all of the spots. It all worked out in the end, but you really needed to work fast and do quite a bit of negotiating to get into position.

No matter what city or small town we stopped in, every rally was very scripted and very Hollywood-like. Occasionally, there would be a few minor changes, but for the most part, they were pretty much the same.

The Twisted Sister song would come on, fans would cheer, Arnold would walk on stage with his huge smile, flash the thumbs-up, give a little speech with his compelling Austrian accent and toss out one-liners like "Terminate Davis" and "Hasta la Vista Car Tax." The crowd would go wild.

To conclude the rally, confetti would rain down as Arnold threw campaign t-shirts to his supporters and smack hands with the folks pressed up against the stage while making his way back to the bus. It was like groundhog's day, which was fine, but we all hoped that they would stop playing the loop tape of that Twisted Sister song. It still lingers in my brain.

The caravan of buses rolled into Sacramento late on the third day of the tour. The big finale of the four-day bus tour was to take place the next morning on the steps of the State Capitol. Ahhnold was scheduled to parade down the Capitol Mall on a motorcycle, but the plan was abandoned at the last minute for security reasons. Instead, the two Schwarzenegger buses led a procession of trucks, motorcycles and tractors. It was a beautiful day, very warm, but as the candidate walked off the bus, he wore a black "Join Arnold" jacket zipped up tight. It was rumored that he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger greets supporters during a rally at the San Bernardino International Airport October 6, 2003 in San Bernardino, California.
The rally was huge, there were thousands in attendance with Join Arnold signs. Arnold pumped up the crowd by giving a spirited speech while holding a broom pledging to "clean up Cal-ee-for-nyah!" The big highlight of the event was Dee Snider of Twisted Sister singing that song over and over again. Arnold rocked out on air guitar before leaving the stage.

The fly around followed the next day and did not attract as many journalists, mostly due to the $1,000 per person fee and the limited number of seats on the plane.

Like the bus tour, we went from town to town, this time the media in a chartered 737 and Arnold and VIP's in his two Gulfstream G5 jets. The events of the day were like deja vu, but instead of being on the cramped bus, we were traveling between events seated in big comfy leather seats and having a stewardess bring us cold drinks and yummy snacks.

To our disappointment, we all walked away from the tour on the final day having never gained access to Arnold on his bus or his plane. He never once hopped on one of the "Predator" media buses to greet us. Although, if you closed your eyes, it sounded if the he was sitting right next to you since everyone loved to try and master the actor's accent.

On the following day, voters of California chose to recall the failed governor and the well-known action film star terminated the field of 135 candidates at the polls to become the second actor to be elected to govern the Golden State. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 38th Governor of the State of Cal-ee-for-nyah, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Man, that is going to take some getting used to.


(Justin Sullivan is a staff photographer with Getty images based in the San Francisco Bay Area.)



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