Whitman's in -- the race begins

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With yesterday's official announcement by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman that she will be a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, the 2010 campaign season in California began in earnest.

The announcement came less than two weeks before the state Republican Party convention, and ensures that talk of Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- and whether either of them is the best choice -- will dominate the delegates' attention.

Poizner has locked up most of the establishment endorsements, including the majority of the state's GOP congressional delegation (Elton Gallegly is among his supporters) and most GOP legislators, including two who represent portions of Ventura County, Sen. George Runner and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth.

One who is not one the Poizner bandwagon is Sen. Tony Strickland of Moorpark, who is an enthusiastic Whitman backer.

Both candidates are Silicon Valley billionaires with the ability to largely self-fund their campaigns. But neither is likely to stir the passions of the conservative activists who populate these conventions. Additionally, the political environment may not be conducive next year for multimillionaire CEOs, given the populist outcry over excessive executive compensation in the financial industry.

The question remains whether there is a legitimate opportunity for a very conservative candidate to enter the field and to be competitive against two big-spenders. GOP strategist Richard Temple told me yesterday he believes it would take $8 million to $10 million for a conservative candidate just to position himself or herself to take advantage of possible meltdown of the top candidates. To wage a full-on competitive battle, he estimated, it might take $20 million.

Whenever two wealthy candidates get into a primary, there is always an opportunity for a third candidate to steal the nomination, because it sets up the possibility for a "murder-suicide" scenario in which the two wealthy candidates spend big money attacking the other. In 1998, that's what happened in the Democratic primary when underdog Gray Davis benefitted from the mutual destruction of Al Checchi and Jane Harman.

As noted here last week, there is an attempt among some Southern California conservatives to create some buzz for Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy . It remains to be seen how serious those efforts are -- and whether Foy has the wherewithal to raise the many millions that would be needed to be anything but a small-time spoiler against two candidates with bottomless checkbooks.

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3 Comments

And what will another Republican have to offer but more Social Darwinism? Steve Poizner, Meg Whitman, they’re all clones. The problem with Right-wing ideology is that at its core lies the idea that it's morally acceptable to let poor people starve to death. This has always been the fundamental principle. Well, thanks, but no thanks. If you're not for the People, do society a favor and stay home.

Timm, is Campbell running for the GOP candidacy? Also, is Poizner impacted by the Bill Postmus scandal? And what about Whitman's recent registration to Republican?

Did anyone read that interview with Whitman in the LA Times today? She contradicts herself numerous times and seems confused on policy. She also explained why she just switched her registration.

She praises Wilson for his decisions, which included raising taxes, but she doesn't like the idea now.

My guess is that she has her own opinions on more than she let on but is being told to toe the GOP line on numerous issues.

Katie, from what I've read, Campbell is definitely looking to run. It's hard running against multi-millionaires who can self finance, though.

I like Campbell a lot. He's broken from the hardline "no new taxes" stance. Good for him.

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95 percent accurate
Over the last 25 presidential elections, Ventura County voters have backed the winner 24 times, or over 95 percent of the time. It is one of only a handful of counties in the nation that has been such a predictable bellwether.
about Timm Herdt
Timm Herdt
The Ventura County Star's Sacramento Bureau Chief Timm Herdt on state issues and politics from Sacramento to Ventura County. He can be contacted at therdt@vcstar.com
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  • Katie Teague: Timm, is Campbell running for the GOP candidacy? Also, is read more
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