- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

From combined dispatches

THAL, Austria — Austrians yesterday cheered native son Arnold Schwarzenegger who left as a young bodybuilder in 1968 and won the governor’s office in his new home, California.

“I was moved to tears,” said Elfi Kling, who runs a restaurant in Mr. Schwarzenegger’s hometown of Thal.

After partying the night away, Austrian dignitaries and admirers in the movie star’s home region celebrated by claiming him anew as one of their own.

In a bar in downtown Graz — a historic city in southern Austria located just a few miles away from Thal — dozens mingled over a breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee, breaking into cheers and applause when Mr. Schwarzenegger’s victory speech — dubbed into German — was broadcast live on big-screen TVs.

“He’s one of us,” Waltraud Klasnic, the governor of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s home province of Styria, told reporters. “And this is going to push us a little bit more into the foreground on the international stage.”

Austria’s leadership welcomed Mr. Schwarzenegger to politics.

Mr. Schwarzenegger has “a large task ahead of him, and we are confident that he will succeed in bringing California out of the crisis,” Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said in a congratulatory message.

“His success, at first in sport, then professional and now political, shows America and the world what good workers Austrians are globally,” Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

Even Joerg Haider, the anti-immigration populist who sparked international protests by praising Nazi policies, had kind words for the Austrian-U.S. citizen who criticized Mr. Haider’s politics.

“This is not just a great personal honor for Schwarzenegger, but also an honor and a boost for Austria in America,” Mr. Haider said in a statement.

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