Insurance Commish Steve Poizner on Monday offered himself as the Prius candidate for governor – the guy with “a hybrid mix of skills” – while taking a few whacks at his big-spending GOP rival Meg Whitman during his first campaign conference call with reporters.
Pledging to “get California back on track,” – an implicit critique of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Poizner argued that although he’s also a Republican, “I don’t think people look at the position of governor with a partisan perspective.”
The next governor’s top challenges will be [note: Calbuzz decoder ring translations in brackets] to “modernize and overhaul state government,” [cut spending throughout government] and “bring jobs back to California.” [cut taxes and regulations].
Sounding much like Schwarzenegger did when he pledged to “blow up the boxes” and remake California government, Poizner said he would cut spending not with an axe, but with a scalpel, agency by agency, department by department, as he said he’s done in the office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Asked why anyone should believe that he could do what Schwarzenegger has been unable to do, Poizner first gave a standard stump reply: “I’ve never been confused with Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Informed by an intrepid news hound that while “cute,” this was not a real answer, Poizner added that he is an entrepreneur, an engineer and a problem solver with a track record [which Arnold did not have].
Voters, he said, are looking for “an outsider with a track record to deal with insiders.” That, he suggested, is one factor that separates him from eMeg – the former eBay CEO – who has no government experience. “Running the state of California is not like running a company – it’s not how to grow and gain market share” but modernizing and overhauling state government, he said.
Poizner stated that 3,000 people a day week are leaving California because of high taxes and a lack of jobs (his source is U.S. Census data on net migration for California – but his declared cause for it was challenged by a recent PPIC study). The solution, he argued, is to cut taxes.
What taxes, we asked. We’ll get to that within a month, he promised, saying he’s got a policy analyst from Mitt Romney’s failed presidential campaign – Lanhe Chan – and a “first class policy shop” working on a program of tax cuts. [Decoder ring update: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.]
He refused to say whether he’d support an oil severance tax, but he did say he favors the Tranquillon Ridge drilling project in Santa Barbara and other efforts to increase oil drilling from existing platforms and onshore facilities using slant-drilling technology. “I don’t support building new platforms,” he added.
[This makes him safe to all those Republicans in coastal counties whose homes overlook the ocean and who will vote for GOP candidates as long as they don’t mess with their views.]
As for eMeg, Poizner noted that “one of my opponents spent more in June than I’ve spent in total.” Californa, he added, “has a history of wealthy business people parachuting in” but that this has tended to backfire “when people think you’re trying to buy the election.” [hmmm…]
In round figures, Poizner has raised about $5.4 million, including $4.2 million from himself and $1.2 million from others, and spent about $1.7 million, leaving him with about $3.7 million in the bank.
Whitman, on the other hand, has raised about $25 million, including a whopping $19 million from herself and $6 million from others, and has spent a sort of astonishing $6 million, leaving her with $19 million in the bank.
Poizner – a multi-millionaire himself – said “We’re going to raise all the money we need.” But, “If sheer financial wealth is all you need, we’d have had a Governor Checchi,” he said, referring to the former Northwest Airlines chieftain who lost the 1998 Democratic primary after spending more than $40 million of his own money.
He said he would “spend money carefully – I’m not going to go down the road of reckless spending.” And to underscore the point, his communications director, Jerrod Jarrod Agen, later sent over some helpful items from eMeg’s spending report including:
— Private Jets – $100,926.71: ACM Aviation, LLC
— Consultants – $2,111,774.29
— Crystal Valet – $9,283
— Wolfgang Puck Catering – $10,962
— Internet — $994,278.67: Including $943,067.54 to Tokoni Inc.*
“We were quite surprised that the Whitman campaign has spent over $6 million,” Agen said, “not necessarily to talk to voters.”
Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei had no apologies. “Meg has a budget that was created with the goal of winning on election day both in June and November of next year. And the money has been invested into campaign operations thus far is well within that budget,” she said.
“We’re allocating resources to put ourselves in the best position to communicate with voters about Meg’s vision for the future of our state.”
P.S. A Calbuzz tip of the green eyeshade to Poizner for making himself available for some serious questioning — something Her Megness, with her big fat fancy-pants consulting staff, has steadfastly refused to do.
* Tokoni Inc. was founded in n August 2007 by Alex Kazim and his wife, Mary Lou Song. Kazim previously held several top management positions at eBay, including president of Skype, eBay’s internet communications flop, a Whitman project that ultimately cost eBay about $2 billion.