LAFAYETTE — Republican gubernatorial candidate and California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner may be down 49 points in the latest poll, but he says he is far from out of the race.
At a meeting of the Commonwealth Club on Thursday, Poizner attributed rival Meg Whitman's massive lead to her multimillion-dollar advertising blitz.
"People don't know me from Adam, which is frustrating because I am the insurance commissioner," joked Poizner, who has raised $20 million versus Whitman's personal contribution of $40 million and promises to spend as much as $150 million. "... Look, we are just starting. We still have three months. It's not like people know who I am yet."
But it was hard not to compare his sparsely attended appearance at the club's lecture series with Whitman's last month, which drew a sellout crowd, a horde of media, protesters on the sidewalk and a union-funded airplane towing an anti-Whitman banner.
Political observers have questioned whether Poizner can close such a large gap. Even Whitman has moved on from Poizner, focusing her campaign in recent days on the general election and presumptive Democratic nominee Attorney General Jerry Brown.
For Poizner's part, the 53-year-old former high-tech entrepreneur from Silicon Valley did not sound like a desperate man who trails in the polls.
He was relaxed, self-deprecating, funny and passionate about his bid for the state's most prominent office.
Poizner stressed his dual sets of experiences, first as the founder of two startup companies including SnapTrack, which designed the global positioning satellite chip technology now found in tens of millions of cell phones.
Second, he outlined how he conducted a top-to-bottom review of the state's insurance division, which employs more than 1,000 people, and downsized his budget by 15 percent.
"As governor, I will do the same with all state government," he said.
Poizner also stressed his economic recovery plan, which consists of a 10 percent cut in sales and personal income taxes, a 50 percent reduction in capital gains taxes, and a 10 percent slice out of state spending. Cutting taxes, he said, will spur job growth, expand the tax base and put the state back on solid financial footing.
Poizner was at his best when he fielded audience questions from moderator and Oakland Tribune political and legal affairs writer Josh Richman:
Lisa Vorderbrueggen covers politics. Contact her at 925-945-4773 or www.ibabuzz.com/politics.