Former eBay CEO readies for 2010 gubernatorial bid

Legal News Line Jan. 6, 2009, 11:13am

Meg Whitman (R)

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-Former eBay Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman is reportedly preparing to announce her candidacy for governor of California.

Politico conservative columnist Ben Smith said on Monday that the political rookie is preparing for a high-profile campaign.

"The latest step: she just resigned down from board seats at Proctor & Gamble, Dreamworks and eBay," Smith wrote.

Published reports confirmed that Whitman began resigning her board seats on Dec. 31 "for personal reasons," according to her spokesman Henry Gomez, who said she wants to focus on "other things."

Political analyst Tony Quinn said the resignations help her avoid potential conflicts should she win election as governor.

"Running for governor is a full-time job," Quinn said.

Speculation about Whitman has grown over the months following her role as national co-chair of Republican Presidential nominee John McCain's campaign in 2008. Whitman gave a steady, if not spectacular speech, during the Republican convention. McCain floated her name as a possible Secretary of the Treasury during a president debate.

During the convention, McCain aides were quoted as saying Whitman was working the convention in preparation for a 2010 campaign for California governor. Even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said as much during a live interview, saying her role in a McCain administration would be limited.

"I don't think he'll get a chance to listen to her," Romney said, "because you need her in California."

Whitman, 52, has never run for elected office before. She spent a decade as the CEO of eBay after joining the start-up company in 1998. She joined the company when it had roughly 30 employees and oversaw its expansion into a multi-billion dollar company. Time Magazine has ranked her as one of the world's most influential people on several occasions.

But Whitman also drew criticism in the fall when published reports documented how she had never declared her party affiliation and hadn't cast a ballot in more than half of the state's most important elections since 2002, including the recall election of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

"I know it's no excuse, but for years she was heads down in her business and her family," Gomez said of Whitman in published reports. "She didn't vote when sometimes she should have."

She became a Republican, according to court documents, in 2007. Gomez said she grew up in a Republican family, but chose "decline-to-state" as her party preference upon moving to California.

If she announces, Whitman will be opposed in the Republican primary by state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who like Whitman is a self-made billionaire with a strong business background. Rep. Tom Campbell has also announced his intention to run.

In a state where name recognition is critical, a recent poll found that all potential Republican nominees will face a stiff challenge against the Democrats interested in running.

Whitman, Poizner and Campbell each had a favorable rating below 20 percent, and a "no opinion" rating of more than two-thirds.

In contrast, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein had a 50 percent favorable rating and only 11 percent with no opinion. California Attorney General Jerry Brown had a 34 percent approval rating and 32 percent no opinion. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi all had favorable ratings higher than 25 percent and no opinion ratings far less than the Republicans.

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