Calif. Insurance Commissioner Considers 2010 Bid

By Samantha Young | September 18, 2008

California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur with a centrist political style, took an initial step toward seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2010.

Poizner filed papers with the secretary of state’s office to form an exploratory committee as he considers entering the race to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican who is termed out of office in two years.

Poizner, 51, was elected insurance commissioner in 2006 and is the only other Republican to hold statewide office.

He said he wants to help California be a leader in the global economy, institute reforms to make state government more efficient, improve public schools and bolster the state’s water supplies.

“A few years ago, I made a decision that I can’t sit on the sidelines and watch California’s economy continue to deteriorate,” Poizner said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I have this very unique set of experiences and talents that I want to apply to the governorship of California.”

By forming an exploratory committee, Poizner can start raising money and conducting polls.

One other Republican — former eBay Inc. president Meg Whitman — also has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate, although she has not publicly disclosed her intentions.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who earlier this year bought a home in the San Diego area, has been floated as a possible candidate. His spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that Romney has no “political designs” for office in California. He added that Romney remains a resident of Massachusetts.

The winner of the Republican primary will face a well-known Democratic challenger.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has formed an exploratory committee, while Attorney General Jerry Brown, who served as governor from 1975 to 1983, has said he’s contemplating the job. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also are possible contenders for the Democratic nomination. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi announced his candidacy earlier this summer.

If Poizner enters the race, he could face a difficult climb in the Republican primary. He would be a pro-choice candidate from the San Francisco Bay area who has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates.

In his announcement, Poizner released a list of 21 moderate and conservative Republican state lawmakers who have endorsed him –proof, he said, that he can unite the party.

“I think conservative Republican voters will focus on the fact that we will agree 100 percent on what we need to do to get California’s economy back on track,” Poizner said.

He won the praise of conservative Republicans earlier this year when he led opposition to a February ballot measure that would have modified term limits for state lawmakers, extending the time some current legislators could remain in office. He spent $2.5 million of his own money to help defeat the initiative.

Poizner made his fortune as head of SnapTrack, which developed technology that allowed global-positioning satellites to help emergency-services workers pinpoint the locations of cell phones. He sold the company in 2000 to telecom giant Qualcomm for about $1 billion.

He then spent a year as a public school teacher and worked as a White House fellow at the National Security Council on counterterrorism issues.

Poizner dipped into his personal finances to win his current post, outspending former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante by more than 7-to-1 in 2006. The $17 million he spent during the campaign came primarily from a family trust.

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