The Sacramento Bee Endorsement May 9, 2010 When Steve Poizner ran for insurance commissioner in 2006, he showed signs of maturing into a true Republican leader. He had started successful businesses. He'd served briefly as a schoolteacher. He'd nearly knocked off a Democrat in a Bay Area Assembly district. He was a moderate on social issues, such as reproductive rights and environmental protection. But he was conservative on fiscal issues and vowed to run a lean and aggressive Insurance Department. In that post, Poizner has engaged in some stunts – such as opposing a 2009 budget deal that closed a $40 billion budget hole and saved the state from insolvency. But overall, he's been a steady insurance commissioner, standing up to auto insurers and other potential gougers, such as Anthem Blue Cross. That's why it's so disappointing to witness Poizner's metamorphosis on the campaign trail. This one-time supporter of green energy and reducing greenhouse gases now wants to indefinitely suspend the state's global warming law. He claims to support public education but has proposed tax cuts so deep and broad that – barring some instantaneous economic miracle – schools would lose billions of dollars in funding. But his most shameful reversal? His attempts to exploit fears over illegal immigration. In a television ad, Poizner shows a car going off a cliff and suggests that California's financial troubles are largely the result of illegal immigration. He supports policies that would kick students out of schools and state universities if they couldn't prove their citizenship. Confronted with evidence that undocumented pupils represent less than 1 percent of all students in the state's higher education systems, Poizner refuses to budge. He continues to claim illegal immigration is imposing significant costs on taxpayers. Candidates and voters have a right to be frustrated with federal inaction on this issue. Congress has failed for years to enact reforms that would reduce illegal immigration while still allowing businesses – such as California's farm sector – to hire laborers for jobs that others won't do. Yet Poizner, by making illegal immigration the signature issue of his campaign, isn't attempting to make a reasoned appeal to voters. He is desperately trying to win votes by appealing to the worst prejudices of certain Californians. As Peter Schrag notes on the front of California Forum today,

there's a long history of scapegoating immigrants, and particularly Latinos, for the state's problems. Pete Wilson tapped into that sentiment in 1994 and Poizner is doing it again in 2010. This xenophobic strategy is toxic for California, and it's suicidal for the GOP. California is growing more diverse each year. More than a third of the population is Latino and that percentage will continue to grow. Many Latinos share conservative social values of Republicans. But cynical attempts by GOP candidates to exploit the immigration issue have driven Latino voters to the Democratic Party and the ranks of the "decline to state." As The Bee's editorial board has stated before, California needs a strong Republican Party. A stronger GOP could help rein in the excesses of Democrats in the Legislature, better manage the state's finances and enact pension and benefit reforms that are affordable over time. We had hoped that Poizner might grow into that kind of transformative candidate. Unfortunately, he has taken the low road, leaving us little choice but to endorse his main rival, Meg Whitman. Whitman, the former head of eBay, is making her first run for office, and despite having spent tens of millions of dollars on her campaign, she remains an enigma. In her tightly scripted campaign, she's rejected the traditional public experiences of a candidate in favor of fundraisers and staged appearances. Yet even with her few unscripted moments, she's revealed enough about herself to differentiate herself from Poizner. Whitman on the issues On the environment, Whitman has sided with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's support for California to get 33 percent of its power from renewable energy sources. In contrast to Poizner, she hasn't endorsed an initiative that, in effect, would indefinitely suspend AB 32, the state's global warming law. She does support a one-year suspension of the law, something that, under the law, is the governor's prerogative. Whitman also opposes new offshore oil drilling, whereas Poizner has flipflopped on that issue. On immigration, Whitman is also marginally more reasonable than her opponent. While she wants to deny children of illegal immigrants access to California public colleges and universities, she doesn't support Poizner's call to bar such students from public schools. "I'm not in the business of holding kids accountable for the sins of their parents," she told reporters at the Republican state convention. She also has come out against Arizona's new immigration law, unlike Poizner, who supports this assault on civil rights. Whitman's limitations Whitman has numerous limitations, the greatest of which is her flimsy understanding of state government. She has vowed to reduce the state work force by 40,000 positions, yet hasn't detailed how'd she do this and still protect public safety, public education and the environment. Her bashing of state workers smacks of demagoguery and suggests she would command little loyalty from employees whose help she'd need in running an efficient, responsive state government. If she makes it into the general election – facing the presumptive Democratic nominee, Jerry Brown – Whitman will have to lay out, in detail, how'd she go about eliminating 40,000 state jobs while still meeting federal health mandates and her goals for education and law enforcement. She'll also need to answer for the sweetheart stock deals she received while serving on the Goldman Sachs board in 2001 and 2002.

Neither Whitman nor Poizner has run the kind of campaign that Californians want or deserve. But based on their positions and Poizner's willingness to engage in reckless fear mongering, Whitman is the better choice.



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