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Calif. Governor Candidates Clash At GOP Convention

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Calif. Governor Candidates Clash At GOP Convention

Calif. Governor Candidates Clash At GOP Convention

Calif. Governor Candidates Clash At GOP Convention

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124674631/124674628" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger skipped his state's Republican convention this weekend in Silicon Valley. But two candidates hoping to succeed him were there and working hard to win over conservative activists.

GUY RAZ, host:

Republicans in California are holding a state convention this weekend. This year, voters in that state will elect a new governor to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger. As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, both the leading contenders for the party's nomination are short on political experience but not on cash.

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Ms. MEG WHITMAN (Gubernatorial Candidate, Republican, California): I will say the number one thing I think that faces California right now is actually a crisis of confidence. People are...

INA JAFFE: If you live in California, and you don't know that former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman is running for governor, you don't have a TV.

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Ms. WHITMAN: We can turn California around. I think actually I can make a huge difference.

JAFFE: Whitman's never held any elected position before. In fact, she's hardly ever voted. But financially, she's got plenty of what it takes to run for office. Her fortune is estimated at well over a billion dollars. She's already spent tens of millions, and the primary is still three months away.

The convention delegates tend to be the more conservative members of their party. So, Whitman steered clear of some of her more moderate positions, like her support of abortion rights. She stuck with what works: bashing the probable Democratic nominee. In this case, that's Jerry Brown, who first elected governor back in the 1970s, then became mayor of Oakland, and now serves as state attorney general.

Ms. WHITMAN: Now you tell me, what has Jerry Brown accomplished in those four decades of political life that should give Californians a single reason to let him get a second shot? Nothing.

JAFFE: Right now, though, Whitman isn't running against Jerry Brown. Her competition for the nomination is California's insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner. It's his first elected office. Before that, he made his fortune developing GPS chips for cell phones. He was once known as a moderate, even liberal Republican, but more recently, he's steered hard to the right.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. STEVE POIZNER (Insurance Commissioner; Gubernatorial Candidate, Republican, California): Now, as you might know, I am proposing a 10 percent cut in sales tax, a 10 percent cut in corporate taxes, a 10 percent cut in personal income taxes, every bracket, and a 50 percent cut in capital gains taxes.

JAFFE: The cuts he promises would revive California's dismal economy and pull the state budget out of the red, but he was just getting warmed up. On to illegal immigration.

Mr. POIZNER: As governor, if I have to, I'll send the National Guard to the border.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. POIZNER: If that doesn't work, I'll send the California Highway Patrol to the border, and if that doesn't work, I'm going to send the California Republican Party to the border.

(Soundbite of applause)

JAFFE: The delegates loved this speech, but that enthusiasm hasn't been reflected in the polls. Poizner trails Whitman by huge margins, but he says he's just begun to fight. Asked how much of his own money he'd spend, all he said was: enough. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Santa Clara, California.

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