Wilson as governor in 1993
|36th Governor of California|
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Leo T. McCarthy (1991–95) |
Gray Davis (1995–99)
|Preceded by||George Deukmejian|
|Succeeded by||Gray Davis|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1983 – January 7, 1991
|Preceded by||Samuel I. Hayakawa|
|Succeeded by||John F. Seymour|
|29th Mayor of San Diego|
December 6, 1971 – January 3, 1983
|Preceded by||Francis Earl Curran|
|Succeeded by||William E. Cleator, Sr. (acting)|
|Member of the California State Assembly|
from the 76th district
January 3, 1967 – January 7, 1971
|Preceded by||Clair Burgener|
|Succeeded by||Bob Wilson|
Peter Barton Wilson|
August 23, 1933
Lake Forest, Illinois, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Gayle Edlund Wilson|
Todd Chandler Graham (stepson)|
Philip Edlund Graham (stepson)
Yale University |
UC Berkeley School of Law
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1955–1958|
Peter Barton "Pete" Wilson (born August 23, 1933) is an American politician from California. Wilson is a Republican who has served as the 36th Governor of California (1991–1999), a United States Senator (1983–1991), the Mayor of San Diego (1971–1983) and a California State Assemblyman (1967–1971).
Peter Barton Wilson was born on August 23, 1933, in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago. His parents were James Boone Wilson and Margaret Callaghan Wilson. His father sold college fraternity jewelry to work his way through University of Illinois, and later became a successful advertising executive. The Wilson family settled in St. Louis, Missouri when Pete was in elementary school. He then attended the private, non-sectarian preparatory middle school John Burroughs (grades 7–9) in Ladue, and then St. Louis Country Day School, an exclusive private high school, where he won an award in his senior year for combined scholarship, athletics, and citizenship. In the fall of 1951, Pete Wilson enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received a United States Navy Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship, majored in English, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. In his junior year he elected to join the Marine Corps upon his graduation.
After graduating from Yale, Wilson served for three years in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer, eventually becoming a platoon leader. Upon completion of his Marine Corps service, Wilson earned a juris doctor (JD) degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.
In 1962, while working as an Advance Man for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard M. Nixon, Wilson got to know Herb Klein, one of Nixon's top aides. Klein suggested that Wilson might do well in Southern California politics, so in 1963, Wilson moved to San Diego.
After passing the bar exam, Wilson began his practice as a criminal defense attorney in San Diego, but he found such work to be low-paying and personally repugnant. He later commented to the Los Angeles Times, "I realized I couldn't be a criminal defense lawyer – because most of the people who do come to you are guilty." Wilson switched to a more conventional law practice and continued his activity in local politics, working for Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful Presidential campaign in 1964. Wilson's like for politics and managing the day-to-day details of the political process was growing. He put in long hours for the Goldwater campaign, earning the friendship of local Republican boosters so necessary for a political career, and in 1966, at the age of thirty-three, he ran for, and won a seat in the California State Assembly, succeeding Clair Burgener.
Wilson was re-elected to the Assembly in 1968 and 1970, and in 1971 was elected mayor of San Diego.
Mayor of San Diego
Wilson served three terms as Mayor of San Diego, from 1971 to 1983, winning election by a 2:1 margin each time. During his three terms he restructured the City Council, reorganized the planning and civil service commissions, instituted campaign finance reform, and launched the redevelopment of Downtown San Diego. He also helped to keep baseball's Padres in San Diego, helping to persuade local millionaire Ray Kroc to buy the team.
The 1972 Republican National Convention had been scheduled to take place in San Diego in August 1972. However, in May 1972 the Republican National Committee voted to move the convention to Miami because of a scandal involving a donation to the event by ITT Corporation, as well as concerns about the proposed venue (the San Diego Sports Arena) and the adequacy of hotel space. Wilson proclaimed the week of the convention to be America's Finest City Week, which became an annual event and gave rise to the city's unofficial nickname.
In 1972, Wilson recruited Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr., to head the Model Cities Program in San Diego. In 1981, U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan appointed Pendleton to chair the United States Commission on Civil Rights, a position that he held from 1981 until his death in San Diego in 1988.
United States Senator
In 1982, Wilson won the Republican primary in California to replace the retiring U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa. Wilson's Democratic opponent was the outgoing two-term Governor Jerry Brown. Wilson was known as a fiscal conservative who supported Proposition 13, although Wilson had opposed the measure while mayor of San Diego. However, Brown ran on his gubernatorial record of building the largest state budget surpluses in California history. Both Wilson and Brown were moderate-to-liberal on social issues, including support for abortion rights. The election was expected to be close, with Brown holding a slim lead in most of the polls leading up to Election Day. Wilson hammered away at Brown's appointment of California Chief Justice Rose Bird, using this to portray himself as tougher on crime than Brown was. Brown's late entry into the 1980 Democratic presidential primary, after promising not to run, was also an issue. President Ronald Reagan made a number of visits to California late in the race to campaign for Wilson. Reagan quipped that the last thing he wanted to see was one of his home state's U.S. Senate seats falling into Democrats' hands, especially to be occupied by the man who succeeded him as governor. Despite exit polls indicating a narrow Brown victory, Wilson edged him out to win the election. A major contributing factor may also have been a late influx of the Armenian vote in the California governor's race between George Deukmejian and Tom Bradley. Many of these votes came from Fresno and the Central Valley, which were heavily Republican areas. The Deukmejian voters likely also voted for Wilson for Senator.
In 1985, Wilson cast a key vote in favor of President Reagan's budget.
Wilson also co-sponsored the Federal Intergovernmental Regulatory Relief Act requiring the federal government to reimburse states for the cost of new federal mandates. A fiscal conservative, he was named the Senate's "Watchdog of the Treasury" for each of his eight years in the nation's capital.
In 1988, Wilson won the race for the United States Senate against his Democratic opponent, Leo T. McCarthy. On January 20, 1989, he presided over the inauguration of George H. W. Bush as President of the United States. He voted against Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, Bush's tax increase, thus remaining a fiscal conservative.
At the beginning of his second six-year term in the Senate, Wilson announced plans to run for Governor of California. In 1990, he resigned from the Senate after winning the California gubernatorial election.
Governor of California
Pete Wilson was elected Governor of California to succeed outgoing two-term Republican governor George Deukmejian, who chose not to seek a third term in 1990, defeating former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who would go on to be elected to Wilson's former U.S. Senate seat two years later. Wilson was sworn in as governor on January 7, 1991.
As governor, Wilson's oversaw economic recovery in California, just as the rest of the country was recovering from an economic slump. Inheriting the state's worst economy since the Great Depression, Wilson insisted on strict budget discipline and sought to rehabilitate the state's environment for investment and new job creation. During his term, market-based, unsubsidized health coverage was made available for employees of small businesses.
Despite his belief in fiscal conservatism, Wilson raised the sales tax to reduce the state deficit, including imposing a sales tax on newspapers (which did not have one up to then) and "snack" foods. He also raised car license fees and college tuition; by 1991, tuition fees at the University of California rose by 40%, while they rose by 24% at California State University. Additionally, he raised the income tax in the top bracket temporarily. However, by 1993, the snack tax was repealed by the Democratic state legislature and the sales tax increase expired.
Less than a year into his first term as governor, Wilson vetoed AB 101, a bill written to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in the state. Wilson feared that the bill would increase lawsuits and make California less competitive economically. Wilson was the driving force behind the 1996 legislation that deregulated the state's energy market, which was the first energy utilities deregulation in the U.S. and aggressively pushed by companies such as Enron.
Wilson also enacted education reforms aimed at creating statewide curriculum standards, reducing class size and replacing social promotion with early remedial education. Wilson promoted standardized testing of all students, increased teacher training, and a longer school year. However, it was Wilson's uncompromising stance on reducing education spending that led to the budget impasse of 1992, leaving state workers without paychecks from July until September, when the California Supreme Court forced the Governor and the legislature to agree to terms that ended the sixty-three-day stand-off.
Wilson was re-elected to a second gubernatorial term in 1994, gaining 55 per cent of the vote in his race against Democratic State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, daughter of former California Governor Pat Brown.
Wilson spoke at the funeral services for former First Lady Pat Nixon in 1993 and former President Richard M. Nixon in 1994 at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. Two years later, Wilson became, to date, the most recent governor to speak at a California gubernatorial funeral, that of former Governor Pat Brown.
For most of his time as governor, Wilson reduced per-capita infrastructure spending for California, much as he had done as the Mayor of San Diego. Many construction projects – most notably highway expansion/improvement projects – were severely hindered or delayed, while other maintenance and construction projects were abandoned completely.
Term limit laws passed by voters as Proposition 140, and championed by Wilson in 1990, prohibited Wilson from running for re-election to a third term. At the end of his term of office, Wilson left California with a $16 billion budget surplus. He was succeeded by then-lieutenant governor Gray Davis as governor.
- See main article: California Proposition 187 (1994)
As governor, Wilson was closely associated with California Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit illegal immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services in the U.S. State of California. Voters passed the proposed law as a referendum in November 1994; it was the first time that a state had passed legislation related to immigration, customarily an issue for federal policies and programs. The law was challenged in a legal suit and found unconstitutional by a federal court in 1998 and never went into effect.
Passage of Proposition 187 reflected state residents' concerns about illegal immigration into the United States and the large Hispanic population in California. Opponents believed the law was discriminatory against immigrants of Hispanic origin; supporters generally insisted that their concerns were economic: that the state could not afford to provide social services for so many who entered the state illegally or overstayed their visas.
Opponents of Proposition 187 cited its passage as the cause of long-term negative effects for the California Republican Party statewide. Noting a rapid increase in the Latino participation in California elections, some analysts cite Governor Wilson's and the Republican Party's embrace of Proposition 187 as a cause of the failure of the party to win statewide elections. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only Republican to win a California gubernatorial, senatorial, or presidential election since 1994, in a unique 2003 recall election. Schwarzenegger was also re-elected in 2006.
Policies on crime
Wilson led efforts to enact "tough on crime" measures and signed into law the "Three Strikes" (25 years to life for repeat offenders) As a result of the Three Strikes Law, 4,431 offenders have been sentenced to 25 years to life for strings of crime. The law required the construction of new prisons, leading some to question the role in his stance of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a lobbying group of prison guards that gave $1.47 million to Wilson's gubernatorial campaigns.
Wilson also supported resuming the death penalty in California, after a 25-year moratorium, and he signed the death warrant for the execution of child-murderer Robert Alton Harris. Harris was executed in 1992. A total of five people were executed during his administration (the first two in the gas chamber, the latter three by lethal injection).
Wilson supported deregulation of the energy industry in California during his administration due to heavy lobbying efforts by Enron. Nevertheless, during the California energy crisis caused by companies such as Enron, Wilson authored an article titled "What California Must Do" that blamed Gray Davis for not building enough power plants. Wilson defended his record of power plant construction and claimed that between 1985 and 1998, 23 plants were certified and 18 were built in California.
Presidential campaign (1996)
Despite a campaign promise to the people of California not to do so, Wilson also unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for President in the 1996 election, making formal announcements on both coasts. Wilson announced first in New York City, at Battery Park, with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. He completed a cross-country tour.
The Wilson campaign had problems from the start. After deciding to run, he almost immediately had throat surgery that kept him from announcing – or even talking – for months. His campaign lasted a month and a day and left him with a million dollars in campaign debt. This debt was paid off in full in a matter of weeks.
Post-political careers and commemoration
After leaving office, Wilson spent two years as a managing director of Pacific Capital Group, a merchant bank based in Los Angeles, California. He has served as a director of the Irvine Company, TelePacific Communications, Inc., National Information Consortium Inc., an advisor to Crossflo Systems, and IDT Entertainment. He has been a member of the Board of Advisors of Thomas Weisel Partners, a San Francisco merchant bank. He also served as chairman of the Japan Task Force of the Pacific Council on International Policy, which produced an analysis of Japanese economic and national security prospects over the next decade entitled "Can Japan Come Back?"
Wilson is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank located on the campus of Stanford University, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the Richard Nixon Foundation, the Donald Bren Foundation, is the founding director of the California Mentor Foundation and is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National World War II Museum. Wilson sits on two prestigious Federal advisory committees, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. He currently works as a consultant at the Los Angeles office of Bingham McCutchen LLP, a large, national law firm.
In 2003, Wilson was co-chair of the campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Gray Davis as governor of California. On September 27, 2007, Wilson endorsed Rudolph Giuliani for U.S. President, but Giuliani later dropped out of the primary. On February 4, 2008, Wilson endorsed John McCain as a candidate for U.S. President.
In 2007, a statue of Wilson joined Ernest Hahn and Alonzo Horton on the San Diego Walk of Fame. At the unveiling, Wilson quipped, "Isn't this a great country that anyone can make a perfect horse's ass of himself at any time?" He also said, "View this statue, as I will, as a surrogate recipient of the tribute that's deserved by all of you who shared the dream, who made it come true and gave all the proud neighborhoods of San Diego the vibrant heart they needed." Two hundred sponsors donated $200,000 to build the statue. Hispanic and GLBT groups protested the unveiling.
In 2009, Wilson became the campaign chairman of the Meg Whitman for Governor Campaign.
On January 26, 2010, Wilson wrote an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee accusing the federal government of failure to reimburse California adequately for mandates and other costs such as illegal immigration.
Honors and awards
During and after Wilson's career, he was awarded numerous awards and honors:
- The Woodrow Wilson Awards for Distinguished Public Service
- The Patriots Award by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society
- An honorary degree from the San Diego State College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts
- The Distinguished Alumnus Award from Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley
- The Bernard E. Witkin Amicus Curiae Award given by the Judicial Council of California
- Wilson was also honored by the San Francisco Giants by having him open their 1998 home schedule by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in honor of his final full year in office.
- San Diego Genealogy Project: Pete Wilson
- Kaye, Peter (August 16, 2013). "Bob Filner, just the latest rotten San Diego mayor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- Ancona, Vincent S. (Fall 1992). "When the elephants marched out of San Diego: The 1972 Republican Convention Fiasco". Journal of San Diego History. 38 (4).
- "Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr.". aapra.org. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- "Watchdogs". Archived from the original on November 6, 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Mitchell, Daniel J. B. (Winter 2008). ""Duke, Is There Perhaps Something You Forgot to Tell Me?" Pete Wilson's First-Term Struggle with the California Budget". Southern California Quarterly. 90 (4): 379–418. doi:10.2307/41172444. JSTOR 41172444. (registration required (. ))
- "Courts Offer Wilson a Healing Opportunity : Equality: Since an appellate decision is tougher than AB 101 would have been, the governor could easily sign a law barring job prejudice against gays". Articles.latimes.com. 1992-02-09. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
- Taylor, Chris (2002-05-12). "Time Magazine, "California Scheming," May 12, 2002". Time.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Lou Cannon, Education Funding at Center of California Budget Showdown. Washington Post, September 1, 1992
- "Robert Reinhold, Budget Crisis Forces California Colleges to Bar the Doors. ''New York Times'', July 19, 1992". The New York Times. 1992-07-19. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Patt Morrison, California's Budget Crisis – An IOU on Self-Esteem. California's Plight May be a Harbinger or Just Reason for Others to Gloat. ''Los Angeles Times'', August 29, 1992". 1992-08-29. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Daniel M. Weintraub & Jerry Gillam, Senate, Assembly OK Budget; Wilson Awaits Final Package. ''Los Angeles Times'', August 30, 1992". 1992-08-30. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Financing California" (PDF). csus.edu. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Project has taken a long time to get to this point – Chico Enterprise Record". Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Allison Fee, "Forbidding States from Providing Essential Social Services to "undocumented Immigrants": The Constitutionality of Recent Federal Action", Boston University Public Interest Law Journal, Vol. 7, No. 93, 1998, accessed 26 June 2011
- McDonnell, Patrick J. (July 29, 1999). "Davis Won't Appeal Prop. 187 Ruling, Ending Court Battles". Los Angeles Times. p. 1.
- ENRIQUEZ, SAM (October 19, 1994). "Jewish Coalition Opposes Prop. 187". Los Angeles Times. p. 2.
- Bock, Alan W. (October 2, 1994). "Sorting through facts and fiction of immigration". Orange County Register. Santa Ana, Calif. p. J.01.
- Raoul Lowery Contreras (2002-08-16). "The death of the California GOP". calnews.com. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
- Richard Lacayo; Ann Blackman; Margot Hornblower; Joseph R. Szczesny (2004-12-19). "Down on the Downtrodden". Time. Time, Inc. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- "Pete Wilson for Governor: On Balance the Best Choice. ''Los Angeles Times'', October 30, 1994". 1994-10-30. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "FACTS About California's Three-Strikes Law". Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Center for Public Integrity, The Buying of the President 1996 – Pete Wilson". Buyingofthepresident.org. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Wilson, Pete. "Pete Wilson, What California Must Do. ''Hoover Digest'', No. 3, 2001". Hoover.org. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Center for Public Integrity, The buying of the President 1996 – Pete Wilson". Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Can Japan Come Back? The Pacific Council Thinks So". Japaninc.com. 12 December 2002. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "George Raine, Former governor to join business consulting firm. ''San Francisco Chronicle'', February 25, 2004". The San Francisco Chronicle. 2004-02-25. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Governor Pete Wilson Alumni Association". Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Scott Martelle, Pete Wilson endorses Giuliani. ''Los Angeles Times'', September 28, 2007". 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Steele, Jeanette (2007-08-26). "Jeanette Steele, Wilson statue is unveiled as Latinos, gays protest. ''San Diego Union-Tribune, August 26, 2007". Legacy.signonsandiego.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Wilson Honored with Statue in Downtown San Diego". Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- Steele, Jeanette (2007-08-26). "Wilson statue is unveiled as Latinos, gays protest | The San Diego Union-Tribune". Signonsandiego.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "Professional Studies and Fine Arts Newsletter". Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- "In Calif., Meg Whitman leans less overtly on Pete Wilson". csmonitor.com. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
- Wilson, Pete (2010-01-26). "Pete Wilson, Viewpoints: Federal formulas are harming California. ''Sacramento Bee'', Jan. 26, 2010". Sacbee.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- United States Congress. "Pete Wilson (id: W000607)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
Campaign literature and videos
- Reaffirming Liberty: Wilson for President Campaign Brochure
- Pete Wilson, Candidate for Governor, 1994 Platform Papers, Speeches and Endorsements
- Pete Wilson Biography and Inaugural addresses
- Hoover Institution Biography
- Cal Voter: Gov. Wilson's Record on Crime
- Undated speech by Pete Wilson on Affirmative Action titled "The Minority-Majority Society"
|California State Assemblyman
| Succeeded by|
Francis Earl Curran
|Mayor of San Diego, California
| Succeeded by|
William E. Cleator, Sr. (acting)
|Governor of California
January 7, 1991–January 4, 1999
| Succeeded by|
|United States Senate|
Samuel I. Hayakawa
| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Alan Cranston
| Succeeded by|
John F. Seymour
|Party political offices|
|Republican Party nominee for Governor of California
| Succeeded by|
|Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from California
| Succeeded by|
John F. Seymour