California GOP Erupts After Revelation That Gov Candidate Did Not Vote Until She Was 46

A political brawl rocked the California Republican Party state convention in Indian Springs this weekend. On the griddle was Meg Whitman, former former eBay exec and current candidate for governor. The issue was Whitman’s failure to vote, or even register, for the first 28 years she was eligible. Making matters worse, she often did not bother to vote after she finally registered.

Wilson, left, and Whitman
Wilson, left, and Whitman
The news first broke in August when Debra Saunders, a conservative writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported that after Whitman moved to California in 1998, she waited four years before registering — and even then she registered as independent. Saunders also revealed that after she registered, Whitman skipped the vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and didn’t change her party registration to Republican until 2007.

Whitman responded in a statement:

“Voting is a precious right that all Americans should exercise. I have repeatedly said that my voting record is inexcusable. I failed to register and vote on numerous occasions throughout my life. That is simply wrong and I have taken responsibility for my mistake.”

One of Whitman’s two opponents, Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner (and the only Republican state officeholder other than the governor), pounced:

“Reporters have uncovered the facts that Meg Whitman has been desperate to hide: She never voted – never voted once – before 2002. Yet she continues to try to deceive the public, even when confronted with the facts. Worse, Meg Whitman and her campaign team are refusing to answer simple questions and deliberately lying to cover up the facts…

It is clear she should step aside and allow the Republican Party to select a nominee who can win and start to turn California around.”

When a reporter asked the Whitman campaign to say where and when Whitman had registered to vote before 2002, a spokeswoman replied tersely, “Go find it.”

The Sacramento Bee did just that. Its reporters investigated voting records in “six states and a dozen counties, including towns and counties in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California where public records indicated that Whitman lived, worked or attended college” but turned up nothing.

On Thursday, the day before the convention, the paper reported that prior to registering in California in 2002, Whitman had never registered to vote anywhere — ever. She turned 46 years old that year.

This is extra problematic because at another party convention earlier this year, Whitman told delegates that she had registered in 1998. At a news conference on Saturday, Whitman offered this bit of understatement: “I did not vote as often as I should. I didn’t register as often as I should…”

At the convention, reacting to the Sacramento Bee’s revelation that Whitman had never voted, Poizner piled on:

“There’s never been a person elected governor anywhere in this country with a voting record like hers … I mean 28 years of not voting at all, not even being registered to vote — meaning she had no intention of even voting — is something that will make her really not qualified.”

The third opponent, former state budget officer and form Rep. Tom Campbell, who is currently an economics professor, chose not to attack Whitman’s record. Instead, he mocked both Whitman and Poizner for their campaign promises to resolve the state’s multi-billion budget hole by simultaneously lowering taxes and cutting spending.

Among the three, it’s Whitman who has the party establishment’s support. She has been endorsed by national GOP leaders John McCain and Mitt Romney and by former Gov. Pete Wilson. But at the convention this weekend, Poizner drubbed Whitman in the straw poll. He received 78 percent of the vote while she got 14 percent and Campbell took 8 percent.

Straw polls are usually pretty useless but if Poizner’s 64 point advantage over Whitman offers insight into the thinking of the party faithful, it appears they don’t like what the Los Angeles Times called the “civic indifference” in Whitman’s record, and that they did like Poizner’s aggressive response.

And who knows, maybe it means California Republicans are tired of taking bad recommendations from Pete Wilson — whose campaign in the early 1990s for Proposition 187, the anti-immigrant initiative, ruined the party by driving away Latinos quite possibly forever, and who was an early endorser of Schwarzenegger, their great disappointment, in the 2003 recall election.

Let’s hope not.


  • Trish
    September 27, 2009 - 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to think that a lack of interest in representative government would disqualify a candidate from winning but sadly, I doubt it — especially on the Republican side. The GOP holds up amateurs as role models — need I mention Sarah Palin? — and hangs on with a death grip to that “running government like a business” trope.

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  • September 28, 2009 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    >So youll vote for someone with no experience No experience doing what? screwing over taxpayers? Fuck yeah, Ill vote for someone with no political experience. You guys keep wanting "Change" but keep voting for the same politicians. Whos the insane one here?

  • September 28, 2009 - 11:33 am | Permalink

    As a Democrat, I would encourage every California Republican — as few as they are — to vote for Meg Whitman in June.

    Similarly, I fervently support Sarah Palin to be the Republican nominee in 2012.

  • Sam Simple
    September 28, 2009 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    As I recall, Al Franken called out Rush Limbaugh in his first book for not ever having registered to vote. It didn’t seem to matter to the wingnuts.

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