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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 2:57 am | Fair 42º


Gubernatorial Candidate Meg Whitman Stops in Santa Barbara

She talks business, spending and education over breakfast with supporters at the University Club

In front of a solidly conservative audience of about 100 people, California gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman talked about her campaign over breakfast at the University Club on Tuesday.

Mike Stoker, who is running as a Republican candidate in the 2010 35th District Assembly race, gave Whitman a glowing introduction.

“There’s no question in my mind, with where California’s at and what we’re facing, the most important election that we’ve ever had,” he said. “I’m a born and raised Californian. I remember when it was a golden state. We didn’t get here overnight ... but two terms of Meg Whitman and we’re going to be a whole lot more golden.”

Whitman announced her intention to run in February, and joins Steve Poizner, the state’s insurance commissioner, and former Congressman Tom Campbell as Republican candidates in 2010’s November race.

Before Whitman began talking about her goals for office, she acknowledged the question many Californians have for gubernatorial candidates.

“As I was walking in, a number of people asked, ‘Why would anyone want this job?’” she said. After the audience’s laughter died down, Whitman turned serious to answer.

“I refuse to let California fail,” she said. “I just can’t bear to stand by and watch what is happening to this great state.”

Whitman spent about an hour talking about jobs, spending and education, and California’s loathsome state of education and its high unemployment were key targets throughout her Santa Barbara speech.

She also shared some of her background with the audience Tuesday.

The Long Island native received an economics degree from Princeton University and her master’s in business administration from Harvard University, propelling her to her first job at consulting firm Bain and Co., and gingerly added that Mitt Romney was her boss at the firm.

She went on to run the preschool division at Hasbro, and later joined the staff of eBay, which at that point was a “tiny startup,” and the company grew from 30 employees to 15,000, when she stepped down 10 years later.

Whitman said she’s most proud of the small businesses that make their living on eBay, and that the power of small business is a key principle in the gubernatorial race.

“It is inspired individuals that create wealth in America, it is not the government,” she said, prompting applause from the audience. Making it easier for businesses to begin and operate is key to creating jobs and keeping them instate, Whitman said, adding that California is “bleeding jobs” to neighboring states such as Arizona and Utah.

“This is one of the toughest spots in the country to do business, and we saw that every day with our sellers,” she said.

Streamlining the regulation process also is key to keeping them around, Whitman said. “It takes 11 permits to open a hair salon in San Francisco,” she said. “We’re going to have to change that.”

State spending is out of control, according to Whitman, who said she has spent a lot of time studying the state’s budget and has come to the conclusion that “we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem of epic proportions.”

Downsizing benefits from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which provides retirement and health benefits to more than 1.6 million public employees, was one solution Whitman presented.

She said state employees can retire at age 55, and receive 80 percent to 85 percent of their full salary with benefits for the rest of their lives. “It’s a remarkably generous package that virtually no one in the private sector offers,” she said. “We simply cannot afford it.”

Reducing the total number of state workers also is among her ideas.

Education strategies lauded by Whitman included paying more for math and science teachers. She pointed to successes in Florida’s educational system, which has seen an increase in charter schools and tighter accountability on public schools.

Whitman’s former working relationship with Romney came in handy when he asked her to sit on the finance committee of his presidential campaign. When Romney left the race, Whitman joined Sen. John McCain and became a co-chair with his campaign.

Republican heavyweights McCain and Romney are, of course, endorsing Whitman, as is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. Locally, 19th District Sen. Tony Strickland is a co-chair of Whitman’s campaign.

She expressed a desire to “rebuild the Republican Party in California,” which means reaching out to people outside of the party’s traditional base, including women, Latinos and young people.

Whitman said she has raised $6.7 million in the first six months of her campaign.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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