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Candidates begin to look to November

Whitman, Brown set to square off for state’s top office

Posted: June 9, 2010 4:30 a.m.
Updated: June 9, 2010 1:36 p.m.

Scott Keene, of Valencia, votes in Tuesday’s primary election at the Valencia Library polling station. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman earned the Republican nod in the primary election, and will race against Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jerry Brown.

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California GOP voters on Tuesday sent politically inexperienced billionaire businesswoman Meg Whitman to challenge Attorney General Jerry Brown, the aging heir to a Democratic dynasty, in what’s shaping up to be an expensive race for governor.

The former eBay chief executive spent more than $71 million of her own money to win the Republican Party’s nomination over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Poizner, a multimillionaire technology entrepreneur, poured $25 million of his own into the race that featured nonstop negative advertising.

With 22 percent of precincts reporting, Whitman had 63 percent of the vote compared to Poizner’s 27 percent.

“I am battle-tested and I’m ready to give Jerry Brown the toughest election fight he’s faced in his 40 years of politics,” Whitman told raucous supporters at a hotel in Universal City. The group erupted in cheers, waved the state flag, and screamed “We want Meg! We want Meg!”

Poizner conceded defeat, but hedged on whether he would throw his support to Whitman, who holds more moderate views.

“If Meg Whitman runs on conservative principles, she deserves our full support,” he said.

Whitman now faces Brown, a former two-term governor and son of a former governor. Brown faced no serious opposition in the Democratic primary.

In a state hard hit by the recession and beset with ongoing budget deficits, Poizner and Whitman, both 53, tangled over such issues as illegal immigration and abortion, typically hot-button topics among Republican primary votes.

Local Republican Bob Hauter, who was the Los Angeles chair for Whitman’s campaign, said he thought the fierce primary battle with Poizner was great preparation for the November general election.

“Obviously, a lot of things were said in the primary; but traditionally, Republicans band together,” Hauter said. “Most Republicans understand the real contest is in November. Just like a sword gets tempered by fire, Meg has been tested in the primary.”

Whitman will square off against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Jerry Brown. Hauter said Whitman, who is endorsed by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, could be a great advocate for Santa Clarita in Sacramento if she is elected to the state’s top office.

“If (Whitman) gets elected governor, it bodes well for Santa Clarita,” Hauter said. “There’s a great relationship there. Whitman knows where Santa Clarita is.”

Joe Messina, who along with his wife were chairs for Poizner’s campaign in Santa Clarita, said he was disappointed Poizner lost the election, and thought the mud-slinging in the primary election would be difficult to overcome in November.

“It’s hard to win a race when your out-dollared 3-to-1,” Messina said. “We shouldn’t be beating on each other like this, because it makes it hard to defuse these allegations. And they are just allegations. I don’t much care for it, but it’s part of the political game.”

Local officials seeking statewide offices received mixed results from California voters in Tuesday’s primary.
State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, said he felt “very confident” he had won the Republican nomination for state controller. He was almost 100,000 votes ahead of the closest challenger, David Evans, at about 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday.

Strickland ran to become California’s top tax watchdog in 2006 but lost to John Chiang, D-Torrance, by about a million votes, according Secretary of State election archives.

Strickland said this election would have a different result because Chiang hasn’t been a strong enough leader in the office.

“Chiang hasn’t been aggressively auditing and maximizing the dollars we get in Sacramento,” Strickland said. “The state’s on the wrong tract, and we need knew leadership.”

Strickland spent election night at Whitman’s campaign party at the Hilton hotel in Universal City. Whitman encouraged him to take another run at controller.

“I believe me as controller and Whitman at the top are going to be the team that turns this state around.”

A few hundred miles north, state Sen. George Runner watched in Sacramento with his family and supporters as the primary results for the Board of Equalization rolled in. Runner, R-Lancaster, was in the lead, but was only a few thousand votes ahead of Republican challenger Alan Nakanishi.

“It’s good to be in the lead, but there are still a lot of votes there,” Runner said. “Yeah, I’m nervous, but right now, we hope the absentee (votes) are going to reflect the election-day voting. But you know, there are still a lot of votes out there.”

The Board of Equalization collects tax revenue for the state and splits the money among cities and counties. The five-member board includes four elected members and the state controller.

Runner said he wasn’t concerned about not getting the Republican nomination for a seat on the board because he enjoys his current job as a state senator.

“I think it’s going to be a long night,” Runner said. “We’ll be watching the results until well after midnight.”

Signal staff writer Jonathan Randles contributed to this report.

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