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Schwarzenegger Makes Rare Return To State Capital

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigns for Proposition 11 in Summer 2008. Prop 11, narrowly approved by voters that fall, created a Citizens Redistricting Commission that now draws California congressional and legislative districts.
Capital Public Radio file photo
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigns for Proposition 11 in Summer 2008. Prop 11, narrowly approved by voters that fall, created a Citizens Redistricting Commission that now draws California congressional and legislative districts.

The Governator is back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning to the state capital on Monday for two high-profile public events to discuss California's fight against climate change and unveil his official portrait at the Capitol. Both events are expected to highlight more positive aspects of his two terms as California governor.

Schwarzenegger's Legacy Mixed As He Returns To Capitol

He always said he’d be back – and though it’s taken him four years, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the state Capitol Monday for a climate change symposium and the unveiling of his official portrait.

Schwarzenegger’s legacy is a complicated one.

Claremont McKenna College Professor Jack Pitney calls the “governator’s” governorship a “disappointment.”

“He came into office talking about ‘blowing up da boxes,’” Pitney recalls, imitating the governor's famous accent, “and the boxes proved to be pretty sturdy.”

Pitney says Schwarzenegger could never fundamentally restructure state government, as he had hoped, and left office with California facing a $27 billion budget deficit.

“If Prop 25 had been on the books, a lot of the drama surrounding the budget process under Schwarzenegger would have vanished,” Pitney says.

That’s the “majority-vote budget” rule that current Gov. Jerry Brown has used to avoid the long, drawn-out fiscal fights of the Schwarzenegger era.

Pitney says it’s too soon to say how two key legacy issues Schwarzenegger championed will turn out: California’s new “top two” open primary system and the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law known as AB 32. That law is the one thing about Schwarzenegger that Democrats praise.

As for the GOP, Pitney says, “It’s hard to think of any Republicans in California who utter Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name – except in a negative way.”

Source: Ben Adler / Capital Radio News

Schwarzenegger, who has returned to acting since leaving the governor's office in 2011, has made few political appearances with the exception of advocating for renewable energy.


While in office, the former governor frequently promoted California's landmark 2006 global-warming law, called AB32, which paved the way for the state's cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions by the worst polluters.

The Republican will share the stage with the current governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, at a symposium highlighting California's position at the forefront in developing policies to address climate change. Organizers are using the state's public policies to counter naysayers ahead of United Nations climate-change conferences in Lima, Peru and Paris.

Monday's gathering at a 250-seat auditorium at the California Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters will feature research experts, businesses executives from Apple Inc. and UPS Inc., as well as actor Ed Begley Jr. The panels will highlight the costs of failing to move away from fossil fuels, citing noticeable changes such as the expansion of California's wildfire season.

"Arnold always likes to say, 'When the people elected me, they don't see it as Republican air and Democrat air. They just want clean air,' " said Bonnie Reiss, a former administration adviser who now directs the Schwarzenegger Institute at the University of Southern California, which is co-hosting the event.

Schwarzenegger will then head to the Capitol rotunda for a ceremony to unveil his governor's portrait. The painting, by an artist who has yet to be named, eventually will be hung on the third floor of the building next to his recalled predecessor, Gray Davis.


Schwarzenegger had promised to bring fiscal accountability, but he left office with a mixed record, as the state was facing a huge budget deficit. Brown has been credited with passing a tax increase, cutting additional services and bringing the budget back in balance.

In one of his final acts in office, Schwarzenegger commuted the involuntary-manslaughter sentence of the son of a former political ally.

Schwarzenegger said at the time that he cut Esteban Nunez's sentence from 16 years to seven because he thought the sentence was excessive, a decision that caught San Diego prosecutors and the victim's family by surprise. But he also acknowledged he was helping a friend, former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.

Months after he left office, embarrassing revelations broke about an affair he had with his maid that resulted in a son born out of wedlock, destroying his marriage to Maria Shriver.

Since then, Schwarzenegger has largely committed to a Hollywood comeback. He appeared in this summer's "The Expendables 3," and he returned to his cyborg assassin character in a new "Terminator" film due out next year.

While promoting his action movie "Sabotage" earlier this year, Schwarzenegger told The Associated Press that he has no plans to run for elected office again.

"No. I have no interest in running for anything. I've done that," he said. "I never wanted to be a career politician."