Opinion Columns & Blogs

August 16, 2009

Sly: For a change, gubernatorial candidates are visiting us

During the peak of the state and national campaigns, we seldom see the leading candidates in the Modesto area. Some make it to Fresno, but Stanislaus County? Where's that?

Things are different this year, at least in the early going in the race for the Republication nomination for governor in 2010. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has been to the county six times so far in 2009. He's even been to Tuolumne County, which sees even fewer statewide candidates than we do.

On Tuesday, former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman came to Modesto to meet with farm leaders, especially women in ag.

Whitman made a strong impression, I think, because she was focused, emphasized her belief in being focused, and because her conservative credentials and business experience are strong. She didn't name water as one of her top three priorities — which were creating and retaining jobs, reducing state spending and improving education. But when questioned, she said water was a key element of the jobs.

Whitman leads substantially in fund-raising for the Republication nomination, while Poizner has collected more endorsements from incumbent officeholders, especially legislators. But as Jim Boren, my colleague at The Fresno Bee, pointed out recently, that may not be the best strategy. Boren wrote, "That's dangerously close to saying he's part of Sacramento's tired old political scene — the group that's turning California into a third-rate state."

Tom Campbell is the third potentially serious contender for the GOP spot. State Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are so far considered the big contenders for the Democratic nomination. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi has turned his attention to a congressional vacancy in the East Bay.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, appears to have a lock on the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010. As Jon Fleischman wrote on www.flashreport.org, "Denham, who achieved celebrity status within Republican ranks when he successfully fended off an attempted recall election orchestrated by former Senate President Don Perata, continues to have the Republican field all to himself."

Fleischman continued, "Denham has been working hard at fund-raising, and has nearly $1.1 million cash on hand — which is only a fraction of what he will need to win a general election, but represents a significant discouraging factor to other potential serious challengers that Denham could face in a primary. Another huge leg-up for Denham — he has secured placement on virtually all of the 'slate' mailers that will hit Republican and Decline-To-State voters in the days before the primary. Denham also enjoys the endorsements of virtually all the California's GOP state legislators."

No matter whether he wins the lieutenant governorship, Denham is out as a state senator in 2010 because of term limits. Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella is still collecting money and endorsements to run for the 12th District Senate seat. As of June 30, he had almost $40,000 in his campaign treasury — a fraction of what he'll need. But he's working the circuit and I anticipate he'll emerge as a strong contender. Cannella is a conservative Republican, but the son of former Democratic Assemblyman Sal Cannella, giving him an unusual mix of support.

On the Democratic side, Anna Caballero of Salinas has campaign accounts open either to run for a third term in the Assembly or to run for the Senate.

Finally, a thought on protests and town hall meetings and protests at town hall meetings: Of course this is a decidedly American thing to do, part of our right to free speech. Protests aren't necessarily persuasive or educational, but they're surely acceptable so long as no one gets physically harmed. The problem is that some people go to town hall meetings to learn about health care reform and some go to express a view. The format isn't always conducive to both ends.

Sly is editor of The Bee Opinions pages. Contact her at 578-2317 or jsly@modbee.com.

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