Time to Mind the Gov. Race


The GOP gubernatorial race heats up, with underdog state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner pledging $15 million of his own cash to help beat seeming frontrunner and ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman for the seat.

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Whitman, who is similarly pouring millions of her own cash in this plutocrat battle for the GOP nomination, is now the subject of a Time magazine feature, that neatly encapsulates the dilemma she's facing:

Against a backdrop of a crippling statewide financial crisis and a national Republican Party civil war, Whitman is attempting her greatest balancing act yet: running for governor of the country's most populous state as a fiscally conservative, socially moderate woman. As an accomplished business executive, she claims she is in the best position to create jobs and control spending in California, while playing down her pro-choice, socially moderate views. But at a time when GOP elements are conducting a witch hunt to purge moderates from the party, she may have to pass ideological litmus tests in order to get the Republican nomination.

The San Francisco Chronicle on Poizner's money move and what it might mean in the general election. Hint: it will likely not be good for the GOP:

The move by Poizner, the state insurance commissioner and an entrepreneur who made a fortune in high tech, puts his investments to his own campaign at about $19 million. That figure is on par with the personal spending of Whitman, the former CEO of eBay.....

Poizner has struggled to gain traction with six months to go before the June primary. He ranked third in the latest Field Poll with support from just 9 percent of likely voters, compared with 22 percent for Whitman and 20 percent for a third candidate, former South Bay Rep. Tom Campbell.

Poizner's cash infusion "will quiet whispers in political circles that he wasn't serious about the race," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California....

A nasty media war between the three Republican candidates for governor will almost certainly help Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, Schnur said.

Poizner's fortune came from selling a cell-phone tech company he started to Qualcomm for a cool billion. But it helps to remember some California political history to remember that when it comes to elections, money can't necessarily buy you voter love. As the Time story about Whitman noted:

It takes a vast amount of money to be competitive in California, but the road to Sacramento is littered with the bodies of failed parvenus: Michael Huffington, the former Republican Congressman and ex-husband of Arianna, blew $28 million on a failed Senate bid in 1994; Al Checchi, a former co-chairman of Northwest Airlines, spent $40 million losing to Gray Davis in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1998; and the businessman Bill Simon, who campaigned unsuccessfully against Davis in 2002.

A Rasmussen poll from Nov 19 shows Whitman and Brown neck-and-neck in a hypothetical matchup, with a 14 percent margin of undecided to fight over.

Past City of Angles blogging on the 2010 governor's race here and here.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user TechShowNetwork. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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