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  Whitman takes heat for failure to vote for nearly 3 decades

By Miriam Raftery

September 27, 2009 (Indian Wells) – Three Republican candidates vying for the California governorship offered contrasting views on how to revive the state’s ailing economy—and lobbed some pointed barbs at each other at this weekend’s state Republican convention.

In recent months, the state’s most severe economic crisis has resulted in huge budget cuts which have eliminated many services for the poor and disabled, as well as forced steep tuition hikes and enrollment cutbacks at state colleges and universities, also reducing the state’s school ratings from near the top in the nation to near the bottom. At a County Democratic Convention this weekend, candidates emphasized a need to boost state revenues in order to protect the middle class, restore needed services, help those who need healthcare, and improve public education.

At the Republican convention, by contrast, billionaire Meg Whitman, former E-Bay CEO, called for more massive spending cuts. “Every year we pay more to sustain an out-of-control state bureaucracy,” said Whitman, who called for $15 billion more in budget cuts and said she would slash 40,000 state jobs. (Firefighters and CHP would be exempted from cuts, though not teachers or other public servants.) “A wasteful and arrogant bureaucracy, out of touch with the needs of Californians and unwilling to give an inch even in the toughest economic times,” added Whitman, who pledged to restore California’s greatness by reducing the size of government, but offered no details. “California’s best days are ahead, not behind,” said Whitman, who also vowed to suspend California’s greenhouse gas law, which aims to reduce global warming, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Insurance Commission Steve Poizner pledged to cut state taxes by at least 10% across the board for individuals and businesses, a move he says would create jobs.  He did not specify what state government services or expenditures he would cut to make up for reducing revenues.

Campbell, speaking at a dinner Friday, criticized his opponents for promised to reduce taxes and spending but remaining vague on what they would cut. Former California state finance director and a graduate of Harvard Law School, he now teaches law and economics at Chapman University. Campbell is the only candidate to offer a detailed plan to overcome the state’s repeated budget deficits and has invited voters to submit their own ideas in an “ideas forum” on his website.

However Campbell’s plan includes tax increases—a policy that differs sharply with the Republican Party’s “no new taxes” hard-line stance in the California Legislature.

Whitman drew sharp criticism from Poizner after the Sacramento Bee revealed that she never registered to vote before 2002 and did not vote for 28 years. “There’s never been a person elected governor anywhere in this country with a voting record like hers,” said Poizner, who called Whitman “unqualified” and urged her to withdraw from the race. Whitman has apologized for her failure to vote but made clear she has no intention to withdraw. Both Whitman and Poizner have dropping millions of their personal fortunes into their campaigns.

A person in a chicken costume dogged Whitman at the convention, taunting her for refusing to debate her opponents. Poizner foes countered with a character wearing an Al Gore mask, a reference to the Poizner family donating money the former Vice President, who ran for President on the Democratic ticket.

Whitman has said that education would be a priority, but has stated she would not rollback tuition hikes at public universities and colleges. Poizner has called for vouchers to allow parents to send children to private schools.

Among Republicans, only Campbell offered any details on healthcare reform. Unlike Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, who supports universal healthcare coverage for all Californians, Campbell wants California to seek a waiver from the federal government allowing the state to spend all of its federal funds spent on healthcare to add coverage for the 2 million who have no insurance. That money is currently used to insure the poor, blind and disabled. His plan would have insurance companies compete for regional contracts to cover people who can’t afford healthcare insurance or don’t get it at work.

Republicans in the Governor’s race avoided discussion of social issues—an odd departure in a party whose base includes a large and active number of fundamentalist Christians. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, all three candidates support abortion rights (though there are nuances; Whitman has stated she supports parental notification for minors seeking abortion). Campbell also supports same-sex marriage, which is opposed by Whitman and Poizner.

East County’s representative, California Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollinsgworth, urged party members at the convention to embrace supporters of the anti-tax, anti-government tea party movement. “They’re angry at everyone,” he noted. “We have to make sure to earn their trust.”
But political science professor Henry Brady at U.C. Berkeley expressed skepticism about reaching out to tea party members. “That’s the fringe of the far right,” he said. “They need to reach out to the decline-to-state voters in the middle.”

Republican candidates hope to tap into anti-government sentiments and a dip in President Obama’s approval ratings. But in California, the GOP face an uphill battle, since only 31% of registered voters in California are registered Republicans—and Republicans no longer command a majority in any state legislative or Congressional district. While Republicans retain margins over Democrats in some districts, the growing number of decline-to-state voters reflect disenchantment with party politics; Republicans no longer command a majority in any state legislative or Congressional district in California.


For more information on the Republican candidates for governor, including videos of their convention speeches, visit their websites at:

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