The 37th Governor... 3 Years Later

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Even now, Gray Davis is a something of a political enigma.

Elected as governor by one of the largest margins in modern times, he was also the only governor ever recalled by California voters. He's never been seen as a charismatic figure by most citizens, and yet he won five statewide elections in his 30 year career in politics.

And yet, after suffering a final blow that will undoubtedly be in the first paragraph of every story written about him, he not only seems without anger about what happened three years ago this weekend... he seems at ease.

"It's been relatively easy to move on," the 63-year-old Democrat says, "because we knew we were moving on. It's just our exit date was a little earlier than we had planned."

Later today on The California Report, we hear from Davis on what's he doing now... and how he's staying involved in California politics, albeit behind the scenes. I spent a couple of hours with the former governor last week in his Los Angeles office, and found that he has some pretty interesting views on what led to his political demise in the October 7, 2003 recall.

He still believes some of it was not about him, but rather an energy crisis he blames largely on Enron, and an effort by Republicans to take take a second shot at removing him from office (after his reelection in 2002). That's similar to what he said during the campaign to keep his job. But what's changed is his acknowledgment of mistakes made along the way-- most notably, the now infamous decision to allow an increase in the vehicle license fee, the so-called "car tax" that Arnold Schwarzenegger and others so succesfully hung around Davis' neck.

He says he now gets why people were so angry. "If I had spent more time as a private citizen before I became governor, or while I was governor, I would've understood it," he said.

You'll be able to hear the story here later this afternoon.

And I'm also including links to some extended excerpts from my interview with Davis:

(**hint-- right click on the files below, and choose "Open In New Window." It'll make your life much easier!)

1. Davis on his role these days as a "senior statesman" in the Democratic Party

2. Did the negative tone of his 2002 campaign pave the way for the 2003 recall?

3. The "car tax"... and why he only now realizes its increase helped fuel anger against him

4. Davis on his new outlook when it comes to the issue of taxes

5. Davis' advice to Phil Angelides on beating Schwarzenegger

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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