By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Local Republican Scott Feller could barely contain his joy last night as votes cast here and in the rest of the state pushed Arnold Schwarzenegger into the California governor's seat and Gray Davis out of it.
"He is the most electable. And once he's in office, he will have 3,000 political appointees and his veto power," Feller said when asked if Schwarzenegger was his favorite of the Republican candidates in the gubernatorial recall race.
Final tallies of Del Norte County votes were released at 11:10 p.m., last night, far in advance of expectations two days ago.
On the question of whether Davis should be recalled from office, 61.9 percent of local voters said yes, with 38.1 percent voting against the recall. Voter turnout here was about average for Del Norte at 53.8 of all 12,231 registered voters voting.
Republican Schwarzenegger got a huge majority of Del Norte County's votes, pulling in twice as many ballots as Democratic candidate Cruz Bustamante. Of the total 6,578 votes cast, Schwarzenegger got 3,293 and Bustamante corralled 1,568.
Local voters decided overwhelming against Prop. 53 and voted against Prop. 54 by a lesser margin.
Feller, chair of the local Republican Party Committee kept watch at the Del Norte County administrative building until late last night as about 16 local officials sorted and counted local ballots.
Local Democrats may have been depressed, but were not in shock at Schwarzenegger's early lead.
Head of the local Democratic Committee Mike McKenzie-Bahr said he worries having a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature may cause deadlock in the process to solve the state's problems.
"Gray Davis didn't do much to inspire the voters and he didn't get out the vote, because Democrats were not enthralled with the governor," said McKenzie-Bahr.
He also said he fears the successful attempt to recall the state's top politician may scare future state leaders away from strong leadership.
"Now I think people are going to be afraid to take a stand when a stand needs to taken, because they're afraid of being recalled. And we have billions of dollars to be cut, which requires some unpopular decisions be made," McKenzie-Bahr said from his home in Hiouchi.
Del Norte County's absentee ballot totals were tallied last night by 7:07 p.m. Of the 2,298 absentee ballots cast on whether Gov. Davis should be recalled, 63.4 percent voted for the recall, with 36.6 percent voting against it.
Regular votes cast at Del Norte's 18 precinct polling places yesterday were also tallied much faster than officials expected.
Just two days ago, Del Norte County Elections Clerk Vickie Frazier predicted local results would not be totaled until Thursday since each ballot had to be hand-checked.
"It went way faster than I thought. What helped was the high number of absentees, there were less votes at the polls because more people voted by absentee," said Frazier.
Del Norte County Assessor Gerald Cochran said there were far more absentee ballots in this election than in the last primary that posted only 1,477.
The method of hand checking each ballot revealed a few voting mistakes were made yesterday. Volunteer ballot checker Martha McClure, a Del Norte County supervisor, said she found one ballot card with all 135 candidates selected.
Supervisor Sarah Sampels, also volunteering her time to canvass, said she found a ballot with 65 candidates checked.
It may take up to 39 days for the state to certify yesterday's statewide election results. Upon certification, Schwarzenegger can immediately take office as California governor.