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Poizner-Whitman debate redux

Did you see the big Steve PoiznerMeg Whitman Republican gubernatorial debate last night? No? Well, why the heck not?

Video clips at Ustream

I didn’t see any major flubs or triumphs. Once Whitman remembered to use her mic, she seemed at ease, as did Poizner. Each laid out the platform – tax cuts, spending cuts, downsizing, whatever business wants – and tried to get to the other’s right. See here for more details.

So, in the absence of any KOs, let there be spin!

From Poizner communications director Jarrod Agen:

“Steve Poizner demonstrated tonight why he will win on Election Day – because he is the only candidate offering conservative reform. Steve is the only candidate who supports cutting taxes across the board, the only one willing to address illegal immigration, and the only candidate with a clear plan to revitalize our economy. Steve Poizner’s 10-10-10 economic growth plan will revitalize California’s economy and bring jobs back to our state by cutting taxes across the board by 10% and cutting the capital gains tax by 50%.”

From Whitman communications director Tucker Bounds:

“This was an enormous victory for our campaign tonight. Meg wanted to highlight her policy proposals and depth on the issues. We had hoped for a policy debate, and that’s exactly what happened. Tonight she showed exactly why her policy agenda is continuing to connect with California’s voters. In addition to articulating her vision for California, Meg did an excellent job of holding Steve Poizner to account for his previous positions. This debate underscored exactly why Meg is the strongest candidate to face Jerry Brown and the Democrats in the fall.”

And from California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring:

“The first gubernatorial debate of 2010 in California just concluded and the clear loser was…Jerry Brown. Both Republican candidates made it clear that this state has serious problems that will take serious people like Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman to solve them, not a career politician with a 40-year track record of failed policies and broken promises.

“I’m especially pleased that the first Republican debate provided an intelligent discussion filled with thoughtful solutions. It’s too bad the Democrats’ only hope for a debate during the primary campaign will be Jerry Brown arguing with himself again.”

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Campaign update: Gov, AG, Senate and more

Rolling into this weekend’s California Republican Party convention, it seemed this was a much better week for Steve Poizner than for Meg Whitman in the Republican gubernatorial primary. He got endorsements from the California Republican Assembly and conservative mainstay Congressmen Tom McClintock and Dana Rohrabacher; she got bogged down in bad press over refusing to talk to reporters and then turning a town-hall meeting into a carefully scripted infomercial. On the other hand, a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday on behalf of Daily Kos showed Whitman supported by 52 percent of likely voters in the GOP primary compared to Poizner’s 19 percent. So for whom was it truly a good week?

Steve CooleyThe run-up to the convention saw a flurry of endorsement roll-outs, but perhaps nobody has had ‘em so hot and heavy as Attorney General candidate and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. This week he announced the endorsements of the California Police Chiefs Association (in the GOP primary – the CPCA picked Alberto Torrico in the Democratic primary); former governors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian; and former state GOP chairmen Mike Antonovich, Dr. Tirso del Junco, Mike Montgomery and Frank Visco.

(UPDATE @ 12:19 P.M.: I’m now told that, in yet another case of multiple endorsement, the CPCA has endorsed Ted Lieu in the Democratic AG primary, too.)

Carly FiorinaRepublican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina announced her campaign’s regional grassroots co-chairs. In the Bay Area, one is Laurel Pathman of San Jose, who seems to be senior manager of commercial and government contracts at Sunnyvale-based Cepheid, which deals in genetic testing technology; I can’t find much else about Pathman online besides her signature (#86) on a 2008 petition supporting controversial evangelical pastor John Hagee. The other is Shahin Shabahang of Los Altos, an attorney at San Jose-based Pedersen, Eichenbaum, Lauderdale & Siehl, which is the in-house staff counsel of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies.

Janice HahnEven as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom formally announces his bid for lieutenant governor (note the updated Web site!), the candidate who has been leading that Democratic primary so far, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, is campaigning practically in his backyard. She’s keynoting the monthly luncheon of the National Women’s Political Caucus’ Marin Chapter at noon today in San Rafael. Hahn picked up the endorsement of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday, but I’m sure Newsom’s entry into the race – in which Hahn had been seeming to trounce state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter – made this week pretty grim at Hahn HQ.

Nadia LockyerOn the local front, Alameda County Family Justice Center Executive Director Nadia Lockyer this week scored the endorsement of the Alameda Labor Council AFL-CIO in her bid for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 2 seat. But not every union member in the county will be behind her: One of her rivals, Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling, announced his endorsement by Hayward Firefighters Local 1909.

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Torrico leads in tribal casino campaign money

I was talking with someone the other day about Indian gaming in California – about how it remains wildly lucrative and politically influential, and about how nascent casino developments like the one right here at the East Bay’s Point Molate are likely to keep it a hot issue in the next few years.

Gaming tribes have always been a formidable force in campaign contributions, so I figured I’d check the candidates for attorney general – whose office includes the Bureau of Gambling Control that ensures tribes comply with their gaming compacts – and the candidates for governor, as the governor has authority to negotiate those gaming compacts with tribes.

Attorney General candidate and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, has received the most in this election cycle of any candidate – $74,124.82 – in either of these races, by far. Next-closest in either race is Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who got $47,000; next closest in the AG’s race is Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who got $36,400.

None of which is all that surprising: Torrico until recently chaired (ed. note – 2006-2008, until his ascension to Assembly Majority Leader, though he serves on the committee still; my bad) the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which has dominion over Indian gaming matters, and now he’s running for another post with important Indian gaming oversight duties. Lieu is a member of that committee, too. (State Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, is vice chair of the Senate Governmental Oversight Committee; tribes gave him $26,400 for his run for AG.) And Brown’s hoping to go from one post crucial to Indian gaming to another.

Four candidates for AG reported no Indian gaming contributions at all – Democrats Kamala Harris and Chris Kelly, and Republicans Steve Cooley and John Eastman (though both the Republicans entered the race recently and haven’t filed campaign finance reports yet other than late and $5,000+ contributions requiring immediate disclosure).

In total, it looks as if tribes have spent almost $229,000 on these contests so far, but it’s still a long way to the primaries in June.

For the full breakdown of what Indian gaming money has gone where, follow me after the jump…
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Meg Whitman launches first TV ad

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman launched the 2010 race’s first television ad today, a 60-second spot called “Confidence” to run statewide on broadcast and cable channels:

What, no sheep?

“This is just the beginning. We will be introducing Meg, her leadership experience and her vision to Californians all over the state,” Whitman campaign manager Jillian Hasner said in a news release. “We’re not waiting until our opponents and their special-interest allies attempt to distort Meg’s message; this campaign is under way.”

The ad, you’ll notice, doesn’t mention GOP gubernatorial primary rival Steve Poizner at all – no “tearing up” happenin’ here, at least not yet.

Whitman’s campaign wouldn’t say today how much this ad buy cost: “It’s significant, but we’re not providing specifics,” spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said. The former eBay CEO has committed $39 million of her personal fortune to her campaign so far, while Poizner has anted up $19.2 million of his own for his campaign.

UPDATE @ 12:46 P.M.: This just in from Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen:

“If Meg Whitman was confident, she would take questions from reporters and debate Steve Poizner in front of the Republican Party at next month’s convention. There is an anti-Republican trend in Meg Whitman’s campaign as she refuses to use the word ‘conservative’ in the ad and she’s been attacking the basic conservative principle of cutting taxes across-the-board. Steve Poizner is the confident candidate in this race and the only candidate calling for tax cuts for every business and individual in California.”

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Poizner says the polls don’t mean anything yet

Poizner at Livermore CoC 1-11-10When I watched Steve Poizner pitch his platform to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce in early October, he was in third place behind GOP primary rivals Meg Whitman and Tom Campbell.

As he pitched his platform to the Livermore Chamber of Commerce this morning – three months later and another $15 million committed from his own pocket – he’s probably in third place still. But to hear him tell it, he’s got ‘em just where he wants ‘em.

“The polls aren’t really ans issue for us right now because we know most of the state has never heard of me,” he told me after the forum with local business owners – perhaps a difficult admission for one of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers to have to make.

Whitman has spent an “unprecedented, huge sum of money early” on a barrage of radio and television (sorry, my bad) ads to build her name recognition, and that’s why she leads in the polls for now, he said.

But a huge percentage of GOP primary voters – 44 percent, by the Public Policy Institute of California’s numbers early last month – remain undecided.

Poizner meanwhile has been running like a jackrabbit up and down the state doing small-venue meetings like this mornings with chambers of commerce and other community groups to build some from-the-ground-up goodwill and name recognition. He said he’s launching his own TV blitz soon, and he’s confident many of those undecideds – and even some of those saying they support Whitman or Campbell – will rally to his story: a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has taught school, worked on homeland security strategy in the Bush White House, and has “right-sized” one state department already as Insurance Commissioner.

“Meg and I are really different and most people don’t realize that yet,” he said, adding voters have “had enough of celebrities, they’ve had enough of rookies.”

Hmmm. We’ll know for sure in five months.

My article has the policy highlights from Poizner’s visit to Livermore today, but among other tidbits, he spoke about fixing California’s “completely mismanaged” public schools by wresting control over curriculum, teaching methods, textbooks and teacher hiring away from Sacramento in favor of local control, much as charter schools do.

And although he said he favors building desalinization plants to ease California’s long-term water outlook, the Delta pumps must be turned back on in the short term, he said. He believes the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights makes a federal judge’s decision to silence the pumps unconstitutional, he said, and he would pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help California get a waiver from the Endangered Species Act to allow the water pumping, as was done for New Mexico in 2003: “If I were the governor, I’d be camping out in front of her office.”

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Ruminations on Steve Poizner’s investment

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner’s announcement that he’s putting another $15 million of his personal fortune into his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination got me thinking about all the money he’s shelled out in recent years.

Poizner in 1995 founded SnapTrack Inc., which pioneered technology putting global positioning system receivers into cell phones; he was the privately held company’s CEO until he sold it to Qualcomm in 2000 for a reported $1 billion. The current size of his fortune isn’t known, but he says he’s not a billionaire.

By my count, he spent $14,855,086.55 on his 2006 race for Insurance Commissioner, and $5,750,731.63 in his unsuccessful race for the 21st Assembly District seat in 2004. He also put $2.25 million into 2005’s unsuccessful Proposition 77, a redistricting measure, and $3.3 million into the campaign against the unsuccessful Proposition 93 of 2008, which would’ve tinkered with term limits.

That’s $26,155,818.18. Add in the $19.2 million so far for the gubernatorial race – $4.2 million earlier, and then yesterday’s commitment – and that’s $45,355,818.18 that Poizner has spent out of his own pocket on California politics since the start of 2003.

Does that make him a record-setter? Nope.

Real estate heir/movie mogul Stephen Bing has spent $56,158,544.14 on California campaigns since 2003, the lion’s share of which – $49,558,000 – was in support of the unsuccessful Proposition 87 of 2006, which would’ve imposed a tax on oil produced in the state to fund alternative energy research and development.

As for candidates, Democrat Al Checchi, defeated by Gray Davis in the 1998 gubernatorial primary, spent more than $40 million out of his own pocket in that race alone. And Steve Westly put $35.2 million of his own money into his losing battle for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, four years after he’d spent $5,193,000 into winning the state Controller’s office.

So Poizner’s spending isn’t unprecedented — yet. Neither Checchi nor Westly nor Poizner in previous campaigns faced a candidate more affluent, more able to self-fund than himself, as Poizner now faces in Meg Whitman.

Whitman was President and CEO of eBay from March 1998, when it had 30 employees and annual revenue of about $4 million, to March 2008, when it had about 15,000 employees and annual revenue of about $8 billion. Her net worth has been estimated at about $1.3 billion. She has put $19.02 million into her own campaign so far, and says she’s ready and willing to spend $50 million.

Money talks; as Checchi, Westly and Bing will tell you, it doesn’t always win. But if Poizner and Whitman actually match their self-funding pace through June’s primary, it could be a one-on-one clash of the moneyed titans unlike California has ever seen – with the winner then pivoting to show down against one of the most well-known and prolific fund raisers that Democrats could possibly field.