SAN DIEGO, NOV. 7 -- Sen. Pete Wilson (R), cautiously celebrating his election as governor of a state in an angry, anti-government mood, promised today to reform the California state budget and respect anti-tax sentiments that poured out of voting booths Tuesday.
But the politically explosive victory of an initiative limiting state political terms, coupled with defeat of all but a few money-raising measures on the ballot, significantly increased chances of a long and bitter struggle over the state's finances and the political futures of nearly every prominent state officeholder.
"The voters were saying the tax revolt is not dead," Wilson said here at a news conference crowded with supporters chanting "Pete, Pete, Pete, Pete" in the city he once served as mayor.
In a gesture to Democrats who control the state legislature, Wilson warmly praised his opponent, former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein, who called him this morning to concede and offer help. He said that she "gave it 110 percent" and that his relationship with her "is a friendship that I look forward to resuming."
But he also warned that, if legislative Democrats "are seeking to be vengeful to me and to the public, I don't think the public will tolerate that."
Unofficial, incomplete returns from all precincts gave Wilson a closer-than-expected victory, 48.8 to 46.2 percent, in the nation's most important gubernatorial race this year.
The victory guarantees some Republican control over redistricting of 52 congressional seats, the largest delegation in the country, and automatically makes Wilson the subject of speculation as a contender for national office.
A spokesman for Secretary of State March Fong Eu said about 500,000 of approximately 7.5 million votes cast were late-arriving absentee ballots not yet counted. Most are thought to have been cast by Republicans and could widen Wilson's margin as well as defeat San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith, Democratic candidate for state attorney general, who leads former congressman Daniel E. Lungren (R) by fewer than 30,000 votes.
Wilson's first decision as governor may be one of his most important -- selecting someone to fill his U.S. Senate seat until the 1992 election. He has promised an appointment in tune with his political views, particularly his support for abortion rights.
Speculation today centered on Carla A. Hills, U.S. trade representative; former representative Edwin Zschau, or state Sen. John Seymour. But Wilson said he had only begun to think about the appointment and gave no hints. Feinstein indicated interest in running for the Senate in 1992.
Wilson's election means both California Senate seats will be contested in 1992, adding fuel to what is expected to be a political uproar because of the ballot victory of term-limiting Proposition 140. Although the initiative passed by only a 52 to 48 percent margin, less than the 2-to-1 landslide predicted in some polls, it appears likely to survive an expected Democratic Party test in the courts.
It puts a lifetime limit of six years on state Assembly terms and eight years on terms for state senators and most statewide elected officials. It also kills the legislators' pension system and cuts their office expense accounts.
The limits do not apply to terms served before 1991, so legislative leaders such as Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, completing his 26th year in office, may remain until 1996. Alan Heslop, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College, said an almost immediate and bitter game of musical chairs is likely along with -- as Prop 140's sponsors intended -- an increase in Wilson's ability to redraw district lines to favor Republicans.
Before Prop 140, some Republicans might have voted to overturn a Wilson veto in exchange for a safe seat, but now no seat is safe for long, Heslop said. Democratic desires to create seats safe for any Democrat, not just their best-known names, will cut the number of guaranteed Democratic victories, he added.
The redistricting struggle is expected to be complicated by negotiations to eliminate a budget deficit projected to be as large as $2 billion. Wilson promised an aggressive effort to clear away mandated spending rules and special-interest lobbying that left outgoing Gov. George Deukmejian (R) little room to maneuver, but he acknowledged many obstacles.
Brown has been described as "frothing" over Wilson's endorsement of Prop 140, which might have failed without his support. Brown did not join Feinstein today in offering his help to the governor-elect, although state Senate President David A. Roberti (D) released a conciliatory statement.
Casting a shadow over the budget process is the frugal mood of voters, who killed 22 of 28 ballot propositions, including 12 of 14 that authorized more state borrowing.
Environmental scientist Lawrie Mott, attempting to explain the defeat of the ambitious environmental "Big Green" initiative and several other environmental measures, said a "voter tantrum" against the long ballot produced a surge of no votes across the board.
Lewis Uhler, president of the National Tax Limitation Committee, said the winning margin for his Prop 140 might have narrowed because of general voter disgust with the long ballot. That might also explain, he said, defeat of Proposition 136, which seemed to fit the anti-tax mood. The proposition would have required a two-thirds legislative vote for any tax increase but lost by a margin of 8 percentage points.
Democrats appeared to add one seat to their state Senate majority and two seats to their solid hold on the Assembly while maintaining their grip on all statewide posts but governor, with the attorney general's race still undecided.
But Sam Popkin, a professor of political science at University of California at San Diego, expressed concern about the defeat of Rep. Jim Bates (D) of San Diego, which "left no Democratic congressmen between Los Angeles and the Mexican border. The Democratic Party has real trouble in the Sun Belt."