Friday, May 21, 2010


The Sacramento Bee published an interesting commentary yesterday. Written by Senior Editor Dan Morain, the opinion piece explores the enormous amount of personal cash being expended by the two wealthy Republicans running for governor of California.

Whitman, the former eBay chief executive, has spent roughly $70 million and finds herself on a downward spiral against Poizner, the wealthy entrepreneur whose spending is approaching $30 million. Most of their money has been used to mercilessly attack each other.

Whitman remains the favorite. But the latest poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California shows Whitman's once massive lead over Insurance Commissioner Poizner has taken a dive in the GOP primary race for governor.

In two months, her lead, once 50 percentage points, has tumbled to nine points, 38 percent to 29 percent. Her support was, as they say, a mile wide and an inch deep. ...

Even among rich candidates, Whitman's campaign is extreme. Spending somewhere in the vicinity of $400,000 a day, she has walled herself off in an extreme way, precluding serious questions by voters or reporters, unlike Poizner.

Poizner is spending his personal wealth, too, but he engages, appearing at rallies and lingering to answer their questions.

$100 million, just for the primary.

Republican theorists are a little nervous about all this, fearing that the public, including registered Republicans, are turned off by the buying spree. One measure of that disgust is the fact that mail-in ballots, the mainstay of Republican campaigns, are way down, and the primary is less than two weeks away.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Jerry Brown is just sitting back, raising money, making a few appearances, continuing his work as the state's Attorney General. At one point, Meg Whitman had the lead over Mr. Brown statewide, but that lead didn't hold. He is now back in the picture, and latest polls shows him ahead of Whitman 42 percent to 37 percent, with 21 percent undecided.

What is interesting about all of this is that also on the ballot for the June election is a proposition backed by both the governor and the state legislature which would allow for a pilot test on public financing of elections (see the Los Angeles Times article on that here). The test program will only involve the Secretary of State position, and will be financed by increasing reporting fees for lobbyists (how's that for justice!). If the proposition passes, and it might, California might start moving away from boutique elections in which only the wealthiest of citizens can buy into the government.

What a welcome development that would be.

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