This article was updated at 11:49 p.m.
After an unprecedented campaign, conducted under the oft incredulous scrutiny of the global media, Californians Tuesday elected Arnold Schwarzenegger governor by a hefty margin.
With just over half of the statewide vote counted late Tuesday night, 55% of voters favored the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.
In the race to replace him, Schwarzenegger had nearly 49% of the vote, far outpacing Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante with 32% and State Sen. Tom McClintock with 13%.
On his way to victory, Schwarzenegger seemed to be made of political Teflon, overcoming last-minute charges that he had behaved inappropriately with women throughout his career and made statements expressing admiration of Adolf Hitler.
Governor-elect Schwarzenegger will put his entertainment career on hiatus; movies he had been attached to, including “Terminator 4,” will be reconceived without the actor.
Schwarzenegger will not be sworn into office for at least a couple of weeks. He cannot be inaugurated until state officials have certified the election results. State law gives officials until Nov. 15 to certify the election.
Though one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Schwarzenegger won election largely without the advice or visible public support from showbizzers.
A few celebrities, who had been missing on the campaign trail, did pop up in the grand ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel Tuesday night as Schwarzenegger celebrated his victory.
Spotted in the crowd was Rob Lowe, once announced by the Schwarzenegger campaign as a “celebrity coordinator,” but not heard from since. Gary Busey also made an appearance before the hundreds of members of the media who were covering the new governor’s acceptance speech. Producer-director Ivan Reitman was also seen in the crowd.
Jay Leno introduced Schwarzenegger, taking the opportunity to plug his talkshow: “Tonight is a testament to just how important one appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’ can be.”
Schwarzenegger, joined by his wife Maria Shriver and surrounded by his Kennedy clan in-laws, said, “I’ve heard your voices loud and clear … The answer is clear: For the people to win, politics as usual must lose.”
He added, “I will reach out to Republicans, Democrats and independents. I want to reach out to everybody. I want to be the governor for the people. I want to represent everybody.”
Earlier in the evening, Davis conceded the race at the downtown Biltmore Hotel. Pronouncing the stage a “no crying zone,” he said, “tonight the people did decide that it’s time for someone else to serve, and I accept their judgement.”
Referring to Schwarzenegger at one point, his supporters began chanting “Recall! Recall!” Davis quieted the room, saying, “I am calling on everyone in this state to put the chaos and division behind us and do what’s right for California.”
Schwarzenegger’s speedy transformation from Hollywood action hero to the top elected official in the nation’s largest state captivated people around the world.
In the course of three months, Schwarzenegger opened “Terminator 3,” a blockbuster still in theaters that has grossed more than $425 million worldwide, and won an election that will likely set voter turnout records for a governor’s race.
Schwarzenegger’s decisive victory came after several late-campaign controversies, including allegations that the actor had groped numerous women over the last three decades.
The campaign overcame those charges after Schwarzenegger apologized to whatever women he had offended.
“I have behaved badly sometimes. Yes, it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right, which I thought then was playful but now I recognize that I offended people,” he said on Oct. 2.
The campaign also charged that several of the women who made the allegations as well as the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper which broke the story in its Oct. 2 edition, were politically motivated.
Schwarzenegger’s share of the vote was much larger than expected.
With more than half the votes counted, Schwarzenegger had received more votes than the number of votes to keep Davis in office. Schwarzenegger was also on pace to get more votes in the replacement race than Davis received in the original 2002 election.
(The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.)