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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

William La Jeunesse

Los Angeles, CA

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California Primary Voting Under Way

June 8, 2010 - 8:45 AM | by: William La Jeunesse

History will be made today in California as voters head to the polls. Not just once, but possibly twice.  First, it will be the most money spent in a gubernatorial primary, as former eBay CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman is expected to spend more than $80 million on her campaign, including more than $70 million of her own money.

 

Whitman is the Republican front-runner to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor.

And that would mean another first: a woman heading the GOP ticket in CA. 

Whitman may not be alone. It appears that Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett Packard will join her, as she leads the polls in the GOP race for U.S. Senate.

Two women at top of the GOP ticket is groundbreaking since only one Republican woman has ever won statewide office: Ivy Baker Priest, who was elected state treasurer in 1966, the same year Ronald Reagan won his first term as Governor in the Golden State.

“The year of the Republican women in California does have an odd ring to it only because Republicans for so many years have not been able to find and nominate quality female candidates,” said Dan Schnur, Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Whitman and Fiorina have a lot in common. Both are former CEOs of Silicon Valley companies, both are independently wealthy, they both hail from less populated Northern California, both have MBA’s, not law degrees,  and both are not the most conservative candidates in their campaigns.

Another reason these two women with no name ID came out of nowhere to lead their primaries is  partly due to the political landscape. Social issues did not, as usual, dominate the Republican primary. 

Instead, it was the economy and jobs, which played to Whitman and Fiorina’s strength.

Gay marriage, abortion and gun rights took a back seat to, unemployment, education and taxes.

Political analysts say this shift from party purity and core values to centrist candidates means the GOP candidate could win in November.

“California Republicans have a history of voting for conservative candidates that can’t win the general election,” says Matt Klink, political consultant with Cerrell Associates.  “That’s not the case this time. If that were the case Chuck DeVore would be the party’s nominee.  Carly Fiorina ran to the right because she needed to win a Republican primary, but she is close enough to center to be able to run back.”

 The GOP winner in the Governor’s race will go on to face career politician and former California Governor Jerry Brown.   The winner of the GOP Senate primary will face three term incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer.

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