World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Pete Wilson

Article Id: WHEBN0000343170
Reproduction Date:

Title: Pete Wilson  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: California gubernatorial election, 1994, Gray Davis, California gubernatorial election, 1990, John F. Seymour, United States Senate election in California, 1988
Collection: 1933 Births, American Presbyterians, California Republicans, Governors of California, Living People, Mayors of San Diego, California, Members of the California State Assembly, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, Republican Party United States Senators, United States Marine Corps Officers, United States Presidential Candidates, 1996, United States Senators from California, University of California, Berkeley School of Law Alumni, Yale University Alumni
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson
Wilson as Governor in 1993
36th Governor of California
In office
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Lieutenant Leo T. McCarthy (1991–95)
Gray Davis (1995–99)
Preceded by George Deukmejian
Succeeded by Gray Davis
United States Senator
from California
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 7, 1991
Preceded by Samuel I. Hayakawa
Succeeded by John F. Seymour
29th Mayor of San Diego
In office
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
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 7, 1971
Preceded by Clair Burgener
Succeeded by Bob Wilson
Personal details
Born Peter Barton Wilson
(1933-08-23) August 23, 1933
Lake Forest, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Gayle Edlund Wilson
Children Todd Chandler Graham (stepson)
Philip Edlund Graham (stepson)
Alma mater Yale University
UC Berkeley School of Law
Profession Politician
Religion Presbyterianism
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1955–1958
Unit Infantry commander

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).


  • Early life 1
  • Mayor of San Diego 2
  • United States Senator 3
  • Governor of California 4
    • Proposition 187 4.1
    • Policies on crime 4.2
  • Energy deregulation 5
  • Presidential campaign (1996) 6
  • Banking, teaching, and corporate advisory career 7
  • Honors and awards 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10
    • Campaign literature and videos 10.1
    • Miscellaneous 10.2

Early life

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.[1] His father was originally a jewelry salesman who later became a successful advertising executive. The Wilson family moved to St. Louis, Missouri when Pete was in junior high school. There, he attended the 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 1952, Pete Wilson enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received a U.S. Navy (Marine Corps) ROTC scholarship, majored in English, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree.

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 (J.D.) degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

In 1962, while working 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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

United States Senator

Pete Wilson as U.S. Senator

In 1982, Wilson won the Tom Bradley. Many of these votes came from Fresno and the Central Valley, which are heavily Republican areas. The Deukmejian voters likely also voted for Wilson for Senator.

President Reagan signing the Civil Liberties Act with Senator Wilson looking on

In 1985, Wilson cast a key vote in favor of President 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?"

Convinced by Japanese-American farmers in Central Valley to support redress, Senator Wilson co-sponsored the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The bill was signed into law by President Reagan.

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 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.[5]

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 President of the United States. 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 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.

Gov. Wilson in his office

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 admittedly moderate stances on social issues, 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.[6] The Wilson administration also introduced anti-fraud measures credited for reducing workers' compensation premiums by as much as 40 percent. 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.[7]

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[8] 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.[9][10][11]

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.[12] Many construction projects – most notably highway expansion/improvement projects – were severely hindered or delayed, while other maintenance and construction projects were abandoned completely.[13]

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.

Proposition 187

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.[14] The law was challenged in a legal suit and found unconstitutional by a federal court in 1998 and never went into effect.[15]

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 illegal residents.[16][17]

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.[18] 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.

Since 1995 the following states have had similar ballot initiatives or laws passed: Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.[19]

Policies on crime

Wilson led efforts to enact "tough on crime" measures and signed into law the "[22]

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).

Energy deregulation

Wilson supported deregulation of the energy industry in California during his administration due to heavy lobbying efforts by Enron.[7] 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.[23]

Presidential campaign (1996)

Pete Wilson announcing his Presidential candidacy

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.[24] 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.

Banking, teaching, and corporate advisory career

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?"[25]

Gov. Wilson with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in downtown Prauge as part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration, 2011

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.[26]

In 2003, Wilson was co-chair of the campaign of Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Gray Davis as governor of California.[27] On September 27, 2007, Wilson endorsed Rudolph Giuliani for U.S. President,[28] 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.[29] 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."[30] Two hundred sponsors donated $200,000 to build the statue. Hispanic and GLBT groups protested the unveiling.[31]

On May 23, 2009, Wilson gave the commencement speech and received an honorary degree from the San Diego State University of Professional Studies and Fine Arts.[32]

In 2009, Wilson became the campaign chairman of the Meg Whitman for Governor Campaign.[33]

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.[34]

Honors and awards

Statue of Wilson in downtown San Diego

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


  1. ^ San Diego Genealogy Project: Pete Wilson
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^,
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Lou Cannon, Education Funding at Center of California Budget Showdown. Washington Post, September 1, 1992
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Video on YouTube

External links

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 Assembly
Preceded by
Clair Burgener
California State Assemblyman
Succeeded by
Bob Wilson
Political offices
Preceded by
Francis Earl Curran
Mayor of San Diego, California
Succeeded by
William E. Cleator, Sr. (acting)
Preceded by
George Deukmejian
Governor of California
Succeeded by
Gray Davis
United States Senate
Preceded by
Samuel I. Hayakawa
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from California
Served alongside: Alan Cranston
Succeeded by
John F. Seymour
Party political offices
Preceded by
George Deukmejian
Republican Party nominee for Governor of California
1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Dan Lungren
Preceded by
S.I. Hayakawa
Republican Party nominee for United States Senator from California
1982, 1988
Succeeded by
John F. Seymour
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.