In 2003, California voters faced a decision: whether to recall the incumbent governor, Gray Davis and replace him with someone from a list of 135 would-be chief executives, including one of the most famous individuals on the planet at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Every twist and turn in the 2003 recall election received saturation media coverage in California and throughout the country. Schwarzenegger campaign events were sometimes jaw-dropping, like the time Dee Snider (the front man for the rock band Twisted Sister) belted out “We’re Not Gonna Take It” on the steps of the California state capitol or when a massive weight dropped from great heights onto a junked Buick to dramatize how the candidate planned to “crush the car tax” if elected governor. Some reporters deemed it a “political circus.”
Behind the scenes, however, it was all business.
I ran Schwarzenegger’s 2003 policy shop. That effort later became known in some circles as “Schwarzenegger University,” which is a misnomer. About 150 people volunteered their time and expertise, but they didn’t think of themselves as faculty members trying to educate a student body of one. They were more like teammates, working together to help a state that was struggling.