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The return of “Queen Meg” Whitman?

Meg Whitman on Forbes cover 6-10-2013The new issue of Forbes magazine features Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman on the cover, but the headline harkens back to a less successful moment in her career.

“Meg Goes to War,” the headline proclaims. “Can the queen of Silicon Valley save its original startup?”

Whitman’s people should put a permanent kibosh on using the word “queen” anywhere near her name. It’s a cringe-worthy reminder of the “Queen Meg” guerrilla campaign tactic that the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United used against her during her 2010 gubernatorial run – a costumed performer impersonating Whitman as someone who thought herself above, and couldn’t be bothered by, the needs of the hoi polloi.

The Forbes story portrays Whitman as a CEO who wants to learn from her company’s mistakes in order to build a leaner, more competitive outfit. “She’s decisive without being abrasive, persuasive without being slick. She’s a team builder who knows that turnarounds call for repairing hundreds of small failings rather than betting everything on a miracle cure that might be a mirage.”

If that’s how she had run her $178.5 million campaign – with $144 million of that coming from her own pocket – we might be calling her Gov. Whitman right now.

Posted on Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Under: 2010 governor's race, Meg Whitman | No Comments »

Trying to get a grip on Meg Whitman’s bankroll

$144.2 million. That’s what 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman spent out of her own pocket on her failed campaign; the campaign’s total spending was $178.5 million when all was said and done, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday.

Chew on it for a second. $144.2 million. Gaaaaah! Cannot… contextualize. Maybe it’s because I live on a reporter’s salary – which was never great, and actually has gotten smaller in recent years – but I’m fascinated by the concept of being able to lay out that kind of money for anything. I’m dwelling on it. It’s probably not healthy.

I did a quick turn around the Interwebs to see what $144.2 million means in other contexts. That amount is also:

  • the entire government spending of the Federated States of Micronesia for 2005.
  • the adjusted sale price of Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (sold in 2006 for $135 million to billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder)
  • Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - Meg could've bought this.

  • the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 lobbying costs, the highest yearly lobbying expense ever reported
  • the amount appropriated by Congress in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 to buy airport screening equipment for checked and carry-on baggage
  • the gross box-office take of Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Doolittle
  • No, I’m still not feeling it. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be able to imagine $144.2 million in, and then out of, my pocket. Maybe it’s easier to visualize $34.93, which is what Whitman paid out of pocket for each vote she eventually got in November’s general election. $34.93 could buy you a pair of boots, or a computer daypack, or a knife-compass-and-spark-striker survival tool combo, or a yoga mat, or a pair of horse bookends.

    Aaaahhhh, that’s it – sweet, sweet context. A pair of horse bookends each for 4,127,391 voters.

    That’s about the same number of people as the combined populations of New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii, by the way.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
    Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman | 6 Comments »

    Highest turnout in past 5 gubernatorial votes

    The results are now certified, and California’s Nov. 2 election saw the greatest voter turnout – 59.6 percent of the state’s registered voters – in the past five gubernatorial votes, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported this evening.

    “I applaud the work of each county elections official and the more than 100,000 elections workers and volunteers who helped to make voting as easy as possible for every eligible Californian,” Bowen said in a news release.

    Looking back, 56.2 percent of registered voters participated in the 2006 gubernatorial election; voter turnout for the 2002 gubernatorial election was 50.6 percent; and 57.6 percent of registered voters turned out in 1998. So last month’s was the highest gubernatorial election turnout since 60.5 percent of voters cast ballots when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson topped Democrat State Treasurer Kathleen Brown in 1994.

    Was it Meg Whitman’s deep pockets, either directly or in backlash, that accounted for this surge to the polls? Was it the question of marijuana legalization? Was it part of the national political furor? All of those things, or none? Have at it, commenters.

    Ballots cast by mail accounted for 48.4 percent of the votes cast in last month’s election; that’s up from 41.6 percent in 2006. The counties with the highest vote-by-mail voters as a percentage of total turnout were Mendocino (79.4 percent), Nevada (73.9 percent) and El Dorado (70.5 percent), though all voters in Alpine and Sierra counties cast ballots by mail.

    “Vote-by-mail voting has steadily increased in popularity over the last 32 years since the law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by mail,” Bowen said.

    Overall, the counties with the highest turnout of registered voters were Sierra (81.9 percent), Nevada (80.8 percent) and Amador (77.6 percent), while turnout was the lowest in Imperial (49.8 percent), Merced (50.9 percent) and Fresno (52.2 percent) counties.

    A new total number of gubernatorial ballots cast means a new threshold to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot: For the next four years, proponents will have to gather signatures from at least 504,775 registered voters – five percent of the total votes cast for governor last month – in order to put their measures to a vote. Proponents for a constitutional amendment will need 807,639 signatures, or eight percent of last month’s gubernatorial votes.

    Posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Debra Bowen | 13 Comments »

    Maybe she should have bought them polo shirts

    Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman reported yesterday that she had put another $2.6 million into her campaign on Election Day, Nov. 2, bringing her total personal investment to $144,175,806.11.

    The latest, not-yet-finalized ballot tally (updated last night) shows she got 3,930,138 votes. So, Whitman spent about $36.68 out of her own pocket, not counting other contributions to her campaign, for each general-election vote she ultimately received.

    FYI, if you Google $36.68, you find it’s the price for:

  • a book on wine-cellar design;
  • a pair of Lacoste shoes;
  • a Ralph Lauren polo shirt; or
  • a place in the history books as the woman who spent more out-of-pocket on her own political campaign than anyone else in American history, yet still lost even while her party did exceptionally well all across the rest of the nation.
  • Well, the last one’s not exactly on Google, but you get the picture.

    Posted on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
    Under: 2010 governor's race, campaign finance, Meg Whitman | 7 Comments »

    ‘California Uber Alles’ by the Dead Kennedys

    Meg Whitman supporters’ anthem? All that is old is now new again. (Sorry about the ad at the top of the video; that would really annoy them, right?)

    Lyrics after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
    Under: 2010 governor's race, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

    What’s the story of last night’s CA election?

    The Contra Costa Times’ home page headline this morning is “Red tide hits Blue wall,” and that’s undoubtedly true.

    As Republicans elsewhere in the nation took 11 governor’s offices from Democrats, Jerry Brown overcame Meg Whitman’s $161.5 million blitz to become the nation’s only Democratic gubernatorial pickup. As Republicans elsewhere in the nation picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer turned away the toughest challenge of her career, from Carly Fiorina. Neither race was nearly as close as polls and pundits had projected.

    In fact, neither were most of the down-ticket races; at this hour, with the attorney general’s race still too close to call, it’s possible that Democrats swept the statewide offices. And as a Republican tide undid the Democrats’ electoral victories of the past two cycles to retake the House of Representatives and end Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker, here in the 11th Congressional District, Jerry McNerney – perhaps the state’s most endangered Democratic House member – holds a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger David Harmer as ballots continue to be counted.

    Why?

    Naturally, your opinion this morning seems to depend on where you’re standing.

    “Feeling pessimistic, but bucking the national trend, California voters decided against a pair of untested Republicans in favor of old-school Democrats on Tuesday,” the New York Times reported.

    From Robert Cruickshank at Calitics.com:

    So. What all does this mean?

    First, that Californians want to be governed by Democrats, and certainly not by wealthy CEOs. The Whitman bust is one of the most laughable and epic political failures we’ve ever seen. She spent $160 million to lose by double digits. Ultimately she and Fiorina could not overcome the basic contradiction of Republican politics: their base hates Latinos, but California’s elections are increasingly decided by Latinos.

    More importantly, Californians rejected right-wing economics. They rejected Whitman and Fiorina’s attack on government and public spending to produce economic recovery.

    From Steve Frank at California News & Views:

    In my opinion, our losses were not due to lack of money (except for our registration effort). Nor was it because of a lack of personnel and smart people.

    Two words for this massive lost [sic] in California, while the GOP was winning in a landslide–or just winning–in 49 other States.

    ARNOLD SCHWARZEGGER. [sic]

    Would you trust a political party that gave you $140 billion in defiicits? Would you trust a Party that gave you a Governor looking for ways to give amnesty to illegal aliens?

    Would you trust a political party that has a Governor that supports choo-choo trains over economic stability and loves ObamaCare?

    Arnold brought us to 12.4% unemployment and a Great Depression.

    Arnold also bankrupted the California Republican Party–he caused divisions and disputes–kept donors from supporting the GOP.

    With Arnold as the titular head of the California GOP–with a fiscal record that put us into a Depression, with policies like AB 32 that have caused massive unemployment and will devastate the Satte over the next few years, with his refusal to support his own political party–after seven years he has done the impossible.

    He destroyed a political party and he has destroyed a whole State–Our slogan now is “Welcome to the Tarnished State”.

    Any wonder the Republican Party of California lost most everything yesterday?

    So, readers, what do you think? Latino outrage, class warfare, a wildly unpopular Republican incumbent governor, lousy candidates or campaigns, old habits dying hard, or something else entirely — why couldn’t the GOP seal the deal here in California?

    Posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Democratic politics, Republican politics | 20 Comments »

    Lee: Voters will regret GOP’s House takeover

    “When the smoke clears, I think people are going to say, ‘My God, what have we done?’”

    So said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, a few minutes ago, discussing the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives.

    “We have to regroup, I hope Speaker Pelosi continues to serve as our minority leader,” Lee said. “I think we really have to look at what has been said tonight, the American people are really suffering, they want jobs, they want the quality of life everyone deserves.”

    But Lee said she believes voters across the nation will soon realize Republicans and tea partiers “totally obstructed the jobs agenda” for the past two years, voting against job-creation measures and unemployment insurance extensions at every turn.

    “The frustration and the fact that the economy has not turned around quick enough is what the message has been … but if we can get money out of the political system and start to bring forward what the Democrats have done and what the Republicans have obstructed, people will begin to realize what the tea party really stands for,” Lee said.

    News outlets are projecting victories for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown and incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Lee said “these are tremendous victories” for Democrats who have the experience and the burning desire to create jobs. “Part of the message that Californians have sent tonight is that they’re not going let elections be bought, and I’m very proud of that, proud of Californians for staying the course.”

    Posted on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Barbara Lee, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

    Brown and Boxer get out the vote in Oakland

    Several hundred Bay Area Democrats chose to forego the start of the fifth game of the World Series this evening in favor of packing into a section of Oakland’s Jack London Square for a final get-out-the-vote rally with most of the Democratic slate of statewide candidates.

    Cynthia Rapak, 62, of San Francisco, wore a Giants cap as a sign of her torn allegiances; she said she wanted Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown “to see that I’ll make the ultimate sacrifice.”

    “The Giants might win tonight, but civic duty comes first – I always vote,” said the retired Oakland Unified School District teacher, noting she believes the campaign’s endgame bodes well for Brown. “Meg went 11 places, and Jerry is 72 and he went to 12. He talked about civic dialogue and she talked about managing; she doesn’t have a clue.”

    She and the rest of the crowd heard from Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for attorney general; Dave Jones, the Democratic nominee for insurance commissioner; John Chiang, the incumbent state controller; and Debra Bowen, the incumbent secretary of state before the top of the ticket began to take the stage: incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. By then it was the bottom of the fifth inning, but the cheering, sign-waving crowd no longer seemed to mind.

    “You’re the key to sending me back to fight for the middle class, to fight for jobs … to fight against the special interests,” Boxer said, exhorting the crowd to get everyone they know to the polls tomorrow.

    Then, backdropped by Port of Oakland cargo cranes and a Bay sunset, Brown took the podium and thanked the Democratic slate for “making this a real team victory. We’ll win tomorrow, we’ll win for you.”

    He noted the crisply uniformed Oakland Military Institute students lining the back of the stage, and said the Democrats’ goal is to make sure all California students have the resources and opportunities they need to achieve solid educations.

    “Victory brings even more challenges – in fact, the campaign is a piece of cake (compared) to fixing the budget,” he said. “I didn’t make this mess, but I sure want to fix it.”

    Just as Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has claimed in her ads, California was working well when she arrived her 30 years ago, he said – and he was governor at the time. “And you know what? It’s going to start working again for everybody.”

    In a final jab at his opponent, he directed supporters seeking details of his platform to his campaign website. “Whitman’s plan is mostly pictures, but I have more respect for you,” he said.

    And then, by partway through the top of the sixth inning, it was over.

    Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010
    Under: 2010 election, 2010 governor's race, Barbara Boxer, Dave Jones, Debra Bowen, Jerry Brown, John Chiang, Kamala Harris, Meg Whitman, U.S. Senate, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

    Green candidate hires Gonzalez as her lawyer

    Green gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells, who was arrested outside the gubernatorial debate at Dominican University of California in San Rafael last month, has retained San Francisco attorney Matt Gonzalez – the former San Francisco supervisor, 2003 mayoral candidate and 2008 independent vice presidential candidate – to represent her in court tomorrow.

    Police said Wells, 62, a financial analyst from Oakland, was arrested when she tried to enter the Oct. 12 debate using someone else’s non-transferable ticket, and then raised a ruckus when she was denied entry and asked to leave. Security guards at the debate handed her over to San Rafael Police, who cited her for trespassing and then released her with a Nov. 2 court date.

    Her news release says she was out over the weekend gathering almost 1,000 signatures on a petition asking the Marin County District Attorney’s office to dismiss the charge against her and investigate those responsible for her arrest, which she claims was a violation of her civil rights.

    Posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010
    Under: 2010 governor's race, Green Party | 6 Comments »

    Meg Whitman rallies her troops in Burbank

    Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman made what she said was her 63rd campaign visit to Los Angeles County on Sunday with a get-out-the-vote rally at the Burbank Marriott. Several hundred local supporters packed into the hotel’s conference center for a glimpse of the candidate, who bounded onto the stage after a live band and several other GOP ticket members had warmed up the crowd.

    Meg Whitman in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh Richman“So, just a couple of days out until Nov. 2, and you know what? We’re going to win this!” she said with unusual intensity, adding internal polls and some public polls show the race for the governor’s office in a dead heat.

    “I like to think of this as two more days before a lot of really good things start happening,” Whitman said, vowing to pursue job creation and – in a nod to the Burbank area’s major industry – a focus on not losing a single entertainment job.

    She said she’s “a proven job creator” as opposed to “my opponent, who has been a part of the war on jobs in Sacramento for 40 years.”

    Whitman said former Gov. Gray Davis, who earlier was chief of staff to Jerry Brown while he was governor, recently said Brown will probably try to raise taxes to balance the budget – something she again vowed never to do. And, she said, there are rumors circulating that Brown would pick Davis to head his transition team; this brought a chorus of boos from the audience.

    Whitman said she wants to turn around K-12 education. “It is not OK that so many of our kids are in failing schools” with high dropout rates, she said, adding that her goal is to restore California to its place at the top of the nation’s school systems.

    Brown “has no prayer of ever fixing the school system” because he’s supported by California Teachers Association bosses, she said, promising to take those union bosses on and put more money into classrooms to support good teachers.

    “We have a chance to make history here, don’t we?” she said, a chance to “start the process of real change to take back this state for our children and our grandchildren.”

    And, she added, a chance to elect California’s first woman governor.

    “Who has the power in this election? You do. The people of the state of California are going to decide this,” Whitman said, calling Tuesday’s vote “a battle for the soul of California.”

    “Our problems are tough, aren’t they? But so am I.”

    Whitman was accompanied to the Burbank rally by Mike Villines, the Republican nominee for insurance commissioner; Mimi Walters, the Republican nominee for state treasurer; and Tony Strickland, the Republican nominee for state controller. Assemblywoman Audra Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, served as emcee.

    From Burbank, Whitman was headed to the Santa Barbara area for a “Halloween-themed” campaign event at the home of Tom Deardorff, president of Deardorff Family Farms. On Monday, she’ll be in Menlo Park, Woodland Hills, Orange County and San Diego.

    Queen Meg in Burbank 10-31-2010 -- photo by Josh RichmanShe may be campaigning right up until the polls close on Tuesday, but for “Queen Meg” – the mocking, matronly monarch created by the California Nurses Association to stalk the candidate – today was the swan song.

    A CNA contingent led by the tiara-topped royal made a brief appearance outside the Burbank Marriott, where Whitman supporters were lining up for a rally with the candidate. Waving union signs, they chanted, “Hey Meg Whitman, get out of our town, so much money and you’re still 10 points down” as the bogus candidate yelled about being beset by the riff-raff and so on.

    Another person in a skeleton cavorted around Queen Meg – a skeleton from her closet, as it were; Queen Meg demanded its deportation.

    CNA has mounted the Queen Meg campaign to underscore its contention that Whitman’s policies would disproportionately harm California’s women and children – particularly her plan to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax, a $5 billion hit to the state’s revenue that the union says would come out of education and health-care funding.

    Posted on Sunday, October 31st, 2010
    Under: 2010 governor's race, Meg Whitman, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »