Poizner vs. Whitman coming to East Bay

The trail of GOP gubernatorial candidates through Lamorinda continues the evening of March 18 when Steve Poizner speaks in Lafayette at the second in a political series sponsored by the Commonwealth Club.

Last month’s appearance of his chief rival, Meg Whitman, sold out. But it’s unclear whether Poizner, who lags way behind in the polls, will generate quite the same buzz.

Poizner’s appearance comes after the weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Santa Clara and his first debate with Whitman, which happens Monday night in Southern California.

If tickets don’t sell, it won’t be for lack of trying on Poizner’s part. He posted an anti-Whitman video today on a new website, www.realmegwhitman.com, that mocks her repeated snubs of the California press corps.

Whitman has her own anti-Poizner Web ads and site: http://www.canttruststeve.com/

With the California Republican Convention gearing up Friday night, the campaign could get even uglier as the two candidates try to out-Republican each other in front of the most loyal members of the party.

Journalist Timm Herdt at the Ventura County Star predicts Poizner will attempt to engage Whitman this weekend on a traditional hot-button issue among Republicans: Illegal immigration. Herdt reported that Poizner told the conservative Republican Assembly he would send the California Highway Patrol to the border if necessary, and cautioned that taking a hard line approach could seriously hurt Poizner among Latino voters.

That line may get Poizner a round of applause at the convention.

But Poizner is a far more thoughtful fellow than this bit of red meat. Some folks will remember that Poizner in 2004 was quoted as being in support of a guest worker program. Four years later, in the San Jose Mercury News’ Internal Affairs column, he praised President George W. Bush’s controversial immigration reform proposal, which contained a pragmatic plan wildly opposed as “amnesty” by many Republicans that would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the  millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

UPDATE 2:20 PM THURSDAY: Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen sent this email to clarify Poizner’s position, writing that the praise was for Bush’s overall efforts at reform and not meant as specific support for the path to citizenship component:

Steve Poizner has never supported and does not support a path to citizenship for illegal aliens in the United States. He is completely opposed to any form of “amnesty.” What Steve admired about President Bush was his attempts to focus on securing our borders first. Steve remains a forceful advocate for efforts to secure our border and believes that California should devote state resources, including the California National Guard, to assist the federal government in its effort to accomplish this important task.

In truth, a governor has very little to say about immigration; it’s a federal policy.

And with California facing a $20 billion deficit and the federal government preoccupied with persistent unemployment, health care battles and wars on terror, Poizner seems to be the only guy talking about immigration policy.

Poizner’s Commonwealth Club event will be held at the Lafayette Veterans Memorial Hall, 3780 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. Check-in starts at 5:30 p.m., while the program begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for members, $22 for nonmembers, $7 for students. Premium seating in the front is $30 for members and $45 for nonmembers. Call 415-597-6705 or register at www.commonwealthclub.org.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • Josh Richman

    And I’ll be moderating the Poizner forum; feel free to include in the comments here any specific questions you’d like me to ask him.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Ask Poizner if he’s responsible for putting the start arrow on YouTube in front of “Runaway Meg’s” mouth.