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Pete Wilson
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Pete Wilson

Peter Barton Wilson (born August 23, 1933) is an American Republican politician from California.

Born in Lake Forest, Illinois, he attended private school in St. Louis, Missouri and graduated from Yale University in 1956. From 1955 to 1958 he served in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer.

Wilson moved to California to attend law school at the University of California, Berkeley and earned his degree in 1962. After serving on Richard M. Nixon's campaign for Governor of California in 1962, he served in the California Assembly (1966-1971) and then became mayor of San Diego (1971-1983).

In 1982, Wilson defeated Democratic Governor Jerry Brown's bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Wilson was reelected in 1988 and served until he resigned on January 7, 1991 to become Governor of California. He was reelected Governor by a wide margin in 1994, defeating Jerry Brown's sister, State Treasurer Kathleen Brown.

Wilson was generally considered a moderate Republican with liberal stances on social issues such as abortion. However, while seeking reelection in 1994, he sought to shore up his support by embracing Proposition 187, a law aimed at illegal immigrants. Proposition 187 was relatively popular at the time and passed easily, but it greatly damaged the California Republican Party's standing with minorities, especially Hispanics, and gave Wilson a reputation as a racially divisive figure nationally.

Wilson made an unsuccessful run for the Republican Party nomination for President in 1996.

Wilson was succeeded by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis in 1999.

During the 2003 California recall, he acted as an advisor to fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger who was subsequently elected Governor of California, succeeding Democrat Davis.

Preceded by:
George Deukmejian
Governors of California Succeeded by:
Gray Davis
Preceded by:
Samuel I. Hayakawa
United States Senators from California Succeeded by:
John F. Seymour