Governor Whitman? Former eBay CEO Enters Race

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman
Source: Reuters

Putting to rest months of rumors and speculation about her political future, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman today announced her plans to run for governor of California in 2010.

Whitman, a Republican, hopes to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is blocked from seeking reelection under California’s term-limit laws.

Whitman’s campaign figures to trade heavily on the business acumen she exhibited throughout her 10 years at the helm of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), turning a startup with a quirky business model into a multibillion-dollar household name. Were the election held today, the economy would be at the forefront of the debate, as California faces a budget shortfall of around $40 billion, a microcosm of the blight lawmakers are wrangling with at the federal level.

“California faces challenges unlike any other time in its history — a weak and faltering economy, massive job losses and an exploding state budget deficit,” Whitman said in a statement announcing her exploratory committee. “California is better than this, and I refuse to stand by and watch it fail.”

Whitman was an ardent supporter of Mitt Romney during the Republican presidential primary, and hopped on the McCain bandwagon when the Arizona senator clinched the nomination.

A co-chair of McCain’s national campaign, Whitman was widely considered to be on his short list for candidates for Treasury Secretary.

Speculation about Whitman’s gubernatorial bid picked up in earnest in January, after she stepped down from the boards of eBay, Procter & Gamble and Dreamworks Animation.

Early polling casts Whitman as a front-runner in what could be a crowded field.

According to a recent survey by Probolsky Research and the California newspaper Capital Weekly, 14 percent of likely Republican voters said they backed Whitman, trailing only Tom Campbell, a business professor and former congressman, with 15 percent of likely voters.

Whitman will also lock horns with California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, another Silicon-Valley billionaire who has announced his candidacy.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has not yet formally announced her intention to run, enjoys an early lead in the Probolsky poll with the support of 36 percent of likely voters.

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