Poizner accuses Whitman of 'Tony Soprano' tactics

February 1, 2010 6:42:24 PM PST
The Republican race for governor took an odd twist Monday when Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner called the cops on his rival Meg Whitman.

Poizner says Whitman's campaign is using Tony Soprano tactics to push him out of the race for governor. Whitman's campaign strategist recently emailed Poizner's campaign trying to convince Poizner to drop out before Meg Whitman "tears him up."

Poizner told reporters Monday that Whitman had crossed the line.

"When Mike Murphy, Meg Whitman's chief political strategist, contacted multiple members of my campaign team and delivered a crystal clear threat," he said.

The email Murphy sent Poizner's campaign stated, "We can spend $40 million plus tearing up Steve if we must, bad for him, bad for us, and a crazy waste to tear up a guy with great future statewide potential."

"The line she's crossed is so serious that we've reported this, this morning, to the proper law enforcement officials including the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the California Attorney General.

Murphy issued a statement saying, "Hopefully the commissioner was not serious about wasting taxpayer dollars by asking state and federal authorities to waste their time on such a silly matter of perfectly legal politics."

"It's interesting. We've seen this pattern before. It's a replay of the 1986 play," says ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain, thinking of the 1986 Republican senate primary when Bobbi Fiedler was accused of trying to bribe Ed Davis with $100,00 to drop out of the race. Fiedler lost badly in that primary.

Poizner is hoping to tar Whitman with a similar charge. He is trailing her by 30 points in the most recent poll and Cain says Poizner is trying to shake up the race.

"He's got to do something to show donors that he can really make a race out of this and he's got to do it very soon. So, there's a kind of whiff of desperation here," Cain says.

Cain says there is very little chance that criminal charges will result from Poizner's complaint. Poizner admits he is way behind in the polls, but says he has not yet begun his media campaign. Meg Whitman reported Monday that she has averaged about $1 million a month in radio ads in October, November and December.

No doubt, likely-candidate Democrat Jerry Brown is hoping for a prolonged battle.