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Whitman, Brown Aim For Schwarzenegger's Job

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Whitman, Brown Aim For Schwarzenegger's Job

Politics

Whitman, Brown Aim For Schwarzenegger's Job

Whitman, Brown Aim For Schwarzenegger's Job

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124031196/124031178" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Racing to succeed Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are two billionaire Republicans and a Democrat who's already been governor twice during the 1970s. Renee Montagne talks with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle about how the contest is shaping up, particularly, between Republican front-runner Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

We're going to take a look, now, at what's likely to be this year's most expensive political contest - the governor's race in California. Among those trying to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger are two billionaire Republicans and a Democrat who already was a two-term governor in the 1970s.

Plus, well, it wouldn't be the Golden State without some local color, so I'll mention that Zsa Zsa Gabor's latest husband has thrown in his hat. Carla Marinucci has been following the race. She's senior political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Good morning.

Ms. CARLA MARINUCCI (Senior political writer, San Francisco Chronicle): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, let us begin with the Democrats. They're fielding one candidate, Jerry Brown, currently the state attorney general. But he hasnt actually made his candidacy official yet. Why not?

Ms. MARINUCCI: That's right. Jerry Brown is waiting until the last possible moment, March 12th, to file - by all accounts. And that's because he doesn't have the money of these two super rich Republicans. But I have to say, some Democrats are getting very, very nervous about this.

They look to what happened to another state attorney general, Martha Coakley, who took sort of a low key approach to her campaign. There's a nail biting situation going on in California right now.

MONTAGNE: And Martha Coakley, of course, lost the race for the Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Ms. MARINUCCI: That's right. Democrats here know that there's an awful lot at stake with the governor's race. And they have huge resources poised against them from the Republican side. One of whom has already spent a record $40 million and we're still four months away from the primary.

MONTAGNE: And that would be Meg Whitman, who is a former CEO of eBay, who's up against another very wealthy business man, who is currently the state insurance commissioner, Steve´┐ŻPoizner.

Ms. MARINUCCI: That's right. You know, what we're seeing from Meg Whitman is something really we haven't seen, even in California, where there are big races and big money, a lot of people are almost calling the ordination of Meg Whitman already. She has suggested that Steve Poizner get out of the race - her campaign has - that he step aside. And yet she hasn't even debated him yet.

She is ahead in the polls, but thats really because she has blanketed the airwaves with just an unprecedented number of TV and radio ads already.

MONTAGNE: We do have some tape here. Now, there's a bit of a Meg Whitman campaign ad. And then a counter ad organized by an independent Democratic group, because, of course again, Jerry Brown is not a candidate yet. So he's not running ads. But let's listen to the two ads from the two sides.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Ms. MEG WHITMAN (Candidate for governor, California): The professional politicians have been fighting in Sacramento for years. And the state is in worse shape than I've seen in the many years that I have lived in California. We can turn California around. I think actually I can make a huge difference. I have run large organizations. I know how to create jobs. I know how to focus. I know how to balance a budget.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Woman: Billionaire Meg Whitman thinks she can outwit the people of California. She's threatening to spend $150 million to crown herself governor.

(Soundbite of cash register ringing)

But Meg Whitman won't debate her opponents and she refuses to release her tax returns. What's Meg Whitman trying to hide with her $150 million campaign?

(Soundbite of cash register ringing)

Ms. MARINUCCI: Yeah, I think, Renee, we've got a lot of angry voters in California, and they want a change. So that's the question. And we're going forward and you hear this in the ads. What kind of change do they want?

MONTAGNE: So far what is the most interesting thing that you're seeing?

Ms. MARINUCCI: Well, you know, I think in so many ways this race already has been sort of one for the books. You do have Jerry Brown, who ran the state in the '70s, a three time presidential candidate, somebody who's been in politics almost all his life. And yet, a lot of young voters don't even know Jerry Brown.

Then you have Whitman, her company eBay, of course, is known to millions and millions of consumers. But she's somebody who has never been in politics. And, in fact, for much of her adult life has never voted.

And with Steve Poizner, you've got a guy who's done a little bit of everything. You've got a GPS in your cell phone, you can thank Steve Poizner. His company SnapTrack invented that technology. And that's why he's a multi, multi millionaire.

So already, you've got some personalities in this California race that are larger than life. And this is like a country. This is the nation's most populous state. And it has some of the nation's biggest problems. And it's going to take a miracle worker.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Ms. MARINUCCI: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: Carla Marinucci is senior political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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