Meg Whitman in bid to become first female governor of California

Traditional, non-former actor Republicans having a decent shot at the state’s highest office? Republicans tearing each other to shreds? Jerry Brown back as governor? Welcome to the 2010 California gubernatorial race! 2010 may well come to be known as the campaign year in which anything was possible.

Jerry “Governor MoonBeam” Brown, a former California governor, is jockeying for a return to the office which he left decades ago, but this time, he is joined by a number of strong Republican contenders. This is unusual for California.  And yet, 2010 presents the perfect storm of opportunity for Republicans, and candidates on the red side have been quick to seize on the potential for real change on the West Coast.

Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are the two top Republican contenders for the Governor’s Mansion. If a Daily Kos poll is to be believed, Whitman is well ahead of Poizner, though still slightly behind Brown.  In a February Rassmussen Poll (typically better known and more widely trusted than Daily Kos), Whitman and Brown were running in a dead heat, both at 43%. This followed a January poll which found Brown ahead 43% to Whitman’s 39%. Within one month, Whitman caught up with Brown.

In a recent email to supporters, Whitman acknowledged her main Democratic rival, who had only recently “officially entered the race of Governor,” and noted that it will be her goal to “frequently point out our clear differences and though he was quick to criticize my candidacy, I look forward to an important conversation with Californians.”

And an important conversation that must be: with a state budget deficit of over $20 billion, someone needs to start taking action, but more importantly, someone needs to start taking responsibility.

Whitman, the billionaire and former eBay head honcho, has been gaining steam in recent months, racking up endorsement after endorsement. On March 5, Whitman wrote that she had recently been endorsed by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice: “I was honored when Secretary Rice said I’m the only person running for Governor ‘who can lead the way toward rebuilding our state.’” Rice should be familiar with California and its politics: the former high-ranking cabinet member left a post at prestigious Stanford University when called on by George W. Bush to be a top ranking adviser to his 2000 cabinet.

Like Rice, Whitman may occupy a space in history, if elected. Whitman’s success could potentially lead to the first female governor of the great state of California. For such a self-declared progressive state, there has yet to be a woman as the chief executive officer. With success comes the attacks of rivals (both politically and on the ideological spectrum), and Whitman has already started to feel her fair share of criticism. Recently, the LA Times ran an article on her wealth, suggesting that her managed personal wealth could potentially spell a conflict of interest. 

 “I’m confident California can be the great state it once was,” Whitman waxed poetically, but tempered her idealism with the political reality that “it’s going to take a different kind of leadership and all of us working together.”  Whitman spoke at the California Republican Party convention on Friday, alongside possible 2012 Presidential contender Mitt Romney.