Whitman plans to spend $150M in governor's race

February 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Republican Meg Whitman is on pace to spend a record amount of money on the campaign for governor. Yet on Thursday, the former eBay CEO asked for Californians to donate to her campaign, in response to a new counter-attack from Democrats. With a long way to go before the election, the race is already getting intense.

Attorney General Jerry Brown has not even officially entered the race for governor yet and Whitman has not even won the Republican primary, but by the looks of things, the fight is on.

"They've clearly decided Meg is the strongest candidate to oppose Jerry Brown. They're trying to do everything they can to stymie her candidacy now," says Whitman's press secretary Sarah Pompei.

Whitman's campaign says it is ready to focus on a general election against Brown, now that an independent expenditure has promised to raise tens of millions of dollars to campaign against her. Democrats love the irony of Whitman, the billionaire, asking Californians for money.

"She's out there saying she needs to raise even more money. It makes you wonder if "A" they're a little rattled over there over the idea they're going to be asked some hard questions and "B" what does it tell you about the character?" says Chris Lehane.

Lehane is one of the leaders of the new group called Level the Playing Field. The group is independent of Brown, meaning donors can give as much money as they want. Brown says there is no way he will ever be able to match Whitman's money.

"Obviously, I am doing my best to raise money and my little $13 million compared to her $200 million, it's quite disproportionate, some might even call it peanuts," says Brown.

Whitman's ads are already on TV and the radio, more than a year before the general election. She has already spent nearly $20 million of her own dollars and has vowed to spend upwards of $150 million. However, Whitman's campaign managers say this new threat is evidence they will need more money from contributors.

"There's no way to buy an election. California voters are very smart; they know that Meg Whitman is trying to get out her message, talk to voters about the important issues," says Pompei.

What about the other Republican candidate in all this? A spokesman for Steve Poizner says the Democrats can attack Whitman all they want, but she still has to beat Poizner in the June primary and his campaign manager does not think she will be able to do that.