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Peter Barton "Pete" Wilson (born August 23, 1933) is an Americanmarker politician from Californiamarker. Wilson, a Republican, served as the thirty-sixth Governor of California (1991–1999), the culmination of more than three decades in the public arena that included eight years as a United States Senator (1983–1991), eleven years as Mayor of San Diego (1971–1982) and five years as a California State Assemblyman (1967–1971). On September 27, 2007, Wilson endorsed Rudolph Giuliani for the U.S. President, but Giuliani later dropped out. On February 4, 2008, Wilson endorsed John McCain as a candidate for U.S. President.

Early life

Peter Barton Wilson was born on August 23, 1933, in Lake Forest, Illinoismarker, a suburb north of Chicagomarker. His parents were James Boone Wilson and Margaret Callaghan Wilson. His father was originally a jewelry salesman who later became a successful advertising executive. The Wilson family moved to St. Louis, Missourimarker when Pete was in junior high school. There, he attended the St. Louis Country Day Schoolmarker, an exclusive private high school, where he won an award in his senior year for combined scholarship, athletics, and citizenship. In the fall of 1952, Pete Wilson enrolled at the Yale Universitymarker in Connecticutmarker, where he received a U.S. Navy (Marine Corps) ROTC scholarship, majored in English, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree.

After graduation from Yale Univ., Wilson served for three years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, eventually becoming a platoon commander. Upon completion of his Marine Corps service, Wilson earned a law degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeleymarker.

In 1962, while working for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard M. Nixon, Wilson got to know one of Nixon's top aides, Herb Klein. Klein suggested that Wilson might do well in Southern California politics, so in 1963, Wilson moved to San Diego.

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 Legislature, succeeding Clair Burgener.

Mayor of San Diego

As the Mayor of San Diegomarker, Wilson guided the city as it transformed from a quiet U.S. Navy & Marine Corps town to an international trade hub, credited with amending the city charter to make public safety the first and foremost responsibility of city government, and leading an effort to manage San Diego's dynamic growth and to revitalize the city's downtown area. He substantially cut the property tax rate and imposed a limit on the growth of the city budget that became a model for California's subsequently adopted Proposition 13. Wilson was largely responsible for beginning the downtown transformation of the Gaslamp Quarter from a drug-infested area to a highly business friendly and successful downtown. Wilson coined the slogan for San Diego, which is still widely used today: "San Diego: America's finest city"

United States Senator

Pete Wilson as U.S.

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 the Proposition 13 while Brown opposed it. However, Brown ran on his record as the Governor 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 the (liberal) 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 he would not run was also an issue. Finally, President Ronald Reagan made a number of visits to California late in the race to campaign for Wilson. Reagan stated that the last thing he wanted to see was one of his home state's U.S. Senate seats fall into Democrats' hands, especially to be occupied by the man that succeeded him as the Governor. Despite exit polls indicating a narrow Brown victory, Wilson edged him out to win the election. A major 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. These same voters who voted for Deukmejian for Governor also voted for Wilson for Senator.

In 1985, Wilson cast a key vote in favor of Ronald Reagan's budget. Just 32 hours after having surgery to remove his ruptured appendix, Wilson arrived by ambulance at the Capitol Building shortly after midnight and was wheeled onto the Senate floor wearing blue pajamas covered by a brown velour robe. Not only was Wilson able to cast his vote in a firm voice, but he even held a brief press conference during the late-night session in which he jokingly asked reporters, "What are you all doing up this late?"

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he called for early implementation of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a national ballistic missile defense system.

Wilson also cosponsored 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.

Wilson was re-elected for his second term in the U.S. Senate, but he decided to run for Governor of California during his first two years of his second term, and he resigned from the Senate when he won the election for the Governor.

Governor of California

Pete Wilson was elected the Governor of California in 1990, defeating the 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 the Governor in early 1991.

Wilson's eight years as the Governor saw California go into a strong economic recovery. Inheriting the state's worst economy since the Great Depression, Wilson insisted on strict budget discipline and worked to rehabilitate the state's environment for investment and new job creation. His term saw market-based, unsubsidized health coverage made available for employees of small businesses and additional anti-fraud measures credited for reducing workers' compensation premiums by as much as 40 percent.

Wilson also enacted education reforms focused on creating curricular standards, reducing class sizes and replacing social promotion with early remedial education. Wilson also promoted additional programs for individualized testing of all students, teacher competency training, a lengthier instructional year, and programs focusing on a return to phonics and early mastery of early reading, writing and mathematical skills.

Wilson led efforts to enact tougher, and often considered extreme, crime measures and signed into law the controversial "Three Strikes," (25 years to life for repeat felons) and "One Strike," (25 years to life upon the first conviction of aggravated rape or child molestation.) Wilson also supported resuming the death penalty in California, after 25 years of a moratorium, and he signed the death warrant for the execution of Robert Alton Harris in April 1992. A total of five people were executed under his administration (the first two by the gas chamber, the latter three by lethal injection).

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 Librarymarker in Yorba Linda, Californiamarker. Two years later, Wilson became, to date, the most recent Governor to speak at a California gubernatorial funeral, that of former Governor Pat Brown.

In Wilson's 1994 successful campaign for re-election against Kathleen Brown, his two signature issues were his opposition to the billions spent by the State funding services for illegal immigrants and the race based quota components of Affirmative Action. Support for the overwhelmingly popular Prop 187 helped give him a landslide win.

For most of his time as the Governor, Wilson reduced per-capita infrastructure spending for California, much as he had done as the Mayor of San Diego. [43536] Many construction projects - most notably highway expansion/improvement projects - were severely hindered or delayed, while other maintenance and construction projects were abandoned completely. [43537]

While his decision to merge the California State Police into the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was applauded by some as a better way to allocate taxpayer's money, the Highway Patrol was severely limited in its law enforcement capacity by a minimal budget, which would not be restored until Wilson's successor Gray Davis took office in 1999. Wilson remains a champion for tough-on-crime laws supported by state-wide law enforcement.

Wilson left California with a $16 billion dollar budget surplus.

Term limit laws passed by voters in Proposition 140, and championed by Wilson in 1990, prohibited Wilson from running for reelection to a third term.

In October 1999, Pete Wilson was given the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholarsmarker of the Smithsonian Institutionmarker. Pete Wilson was recognized for his 40 years of public service to the state and the country.

Energy deregulation and the roots of the California energy crisis

During the energy crisis, as a Hoover fellow, 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 stated that between 1985 and 1988, 23 plants were certified and 18 were built in California [43538]. The San Francisco Chronicle contradicted this claim in a 2001 article that claimed that no new facilities had been built in the last decade [43539]. The graphs Wilson provided in his article showed that Davis had approved twice as many new power plant capacity in Davis' first three years as Governor as Wilson's eight years. The Governor Gray Davis Digital Library contends that Davis' energy policies during his governorship resulted in 38 power plants, totaling 14,365 MW [43540].

Wilson acknowledged that he had not anticipated the large growth in energy demand [43541]. While Davis blamed Wilson for the energy deregulation plan [43542]he rarely acknowledges the fact that he voted, along with 100% of the California legislature, to deregulate the State's electricity market. In 2003, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded that the energy crisis was caused by poorly structured energy deregulation and market manipulation that was allowed under deregulation.

Presidential campaign (1996)

Wilson also ran for President in the 1996 election, making major announcements on both the east and west 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, with his west coast announcement at the Los Angeles, Californiamarker Police Academy.

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.

Banking, teaching, and corporate advisory career

Statue of Wilson in downtown San Diego
After leaving office, Wilson spent two years as a managing director of Pacific Capital Group, a merchant bank based in Los Angeles, Californiamarker. He has served as a director of the Irvine Company, the U.S. Telepacific Corporation, 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 Franciscomarker merchant bank. He also served as chairman of the Japanmarker 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 Japanmarker Come Back?"

Wilson is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford Universitymarker, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the Richard M. 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 Californiamarker.

In 2007, a statue of Wilson joined Ernest Hahn and Alonzo Horton on what has been dubbed the San Diego Walk of Fame. At the unveiling, Wilson quipped:
"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."

On 23 May 2009, as a former governor, Wilson gave the commencement speech and received an honorary degree from the San Diego State College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts.

Wilson is married, has two step children and five grandchildren, and lives in Los Angeles, Californiamarker.

Honors and awards

During and after Wilson's distinguished career, he was awarded numerous awards and honors:

See also


External links

Campaign literature and videos


[[Category:University of California, Berkeley School of Law alumni]]

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