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Schwarzenegger Appeals for Federal Aid to Help California Recover from Fires - 2003-10-29

California's Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Washington, where he met with U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol Wednesday to appeal for more federal assistance for his fire-ravaged state.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's trip to the nation's capital is his first since he won the October 7 recall election to replace Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

His visit to Capitol Hill was originally described as a courtesy call. But with wildfires devastating southern California, the Governor-elect used the occasion to press for more federal aid for his state.

"What is important right now is that we all work together, that Democrats and Republicans alike work together to help California, that is the key thing here," he said.

President Bush earlier this week declared a state of emergency in four California counties, clearing the way for victims to receive federal disaster aid.

Mr. Schwarzenegger met with congressional leaders and members of California's congressional delegation, including Senator Diane Feinstein. The Senate Democrat had opposed the recall election, but now pledges to work with the Republican Governor-elect.

"It matters not to me whether he is Republican or Democrat," he said. "What matters to me is that the state is able to solve its problems, and that people are able to thrive and grow in California."

The Austrian-born former bodybuilder turned Hollywood actor and now Governor-elect was flanked by a large crowd in the halls of Congress. Members of his staff and security detail followed him along with lawmakers, reporters and television cameras. Some lawmakers themselves brought their own cameras to record the visit.

Later, Mr. Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, joined her uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the most liberal lawmakers in Congress, for lunch at a nearby hotel.

The Governor-elect is to be sworn in to office next month.