Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman’s voting record has become a major issue in the California governor’s race as she seeks the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.
Last week’s revelations that Whitman didn’t register to vote until she was 46 years old, and she only became a Republican two years ago, has shaken her campaign for higher office. The question is whether someone so apparently apolitical would be the best choice to govern one of the most politically and fiscally challenging states in the nation.
Gubernatorial candidate Whitman said on Tuesday that her work as chief executive of eBay inspired her to become involved in politics, and that she has dedicated most of her adult life to raising a family, working and her husband’s career. She also said that she realized she should vote after decades of not partaking in any elections.
According to media reports, the billionaire businesswoman's spotty voting records shows that the former CEO was not registered to vote until 2002, and that Whitman registered as a Republican not earlier than 2007.
Whitman apologized on several occasions for her failure to vote as she introduced herself as a less ideological and more business-oriented candidate than incumbent Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She said that failing to vote was a mistake for which she had no excuses, according to a local California newspaper, The Sacramento Bee.
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who is also seeking the Republican Party's nod for governor, released on Monday a 30-second video slamming Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign over the missed votes.
"Whitman didn't vote for one president, congressman, senator or governor. She didn't skip some votes, as she claimed, she skipped every one—for 28 years," says the ad’s narrator.
Millions of California voters that cast ballots during a special election in 2003 helped sweep into higher office the former movie star, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, according to recent polls, Republicans have been out of favor with voters after six years of fiscal decline and multiple obstacles in governance.
Whitman chose the governorship for her first bid for public office. Carly Fiorina, the ex-Hewlett Packard chief executive, a Republican, is also making her first political effort in a run for the United States Senate.
The Senate seat she is seeking has been held by Democrat Barbara Boxer for three terms.
According to the campaign organizers of the neophyte republican candidates, Whitman and Fiorina are hoping that voters' anger over California’s fumbling economy will lead them to heartily embrace non-politicians.
Yet, voters may also find refuge in a candidate who already knows how government works. Republicans will face Democrats in the California governor's race that have substantial experience. The Democratic gubernatorial candidates include former Governor Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
In a Rasmussen Report poll conducted last week, former California governor Jerry Brown leads all Republican candidates in early match-ups for the 2010 governor's race, but Newsom trails the Republican hopefuls. Governor Schwarzenegger cannnot run again due to term limits.