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Poizner claims intimidation

Candidate says Meg Whitman tried to force him out of governor's race.

February 02, 2010|Michael Rothfeld

SACRAMENTO — Accusing his rival, Meg Whitman, of trying to illegally "manipulate" the election for governor and intimidate him into quitting the race, Republican Steve Poizner on Monday reported her campaign to state and federal law enforcement authorities.

Poizner, the state insurance commissioner who is squaring off against Whitman, the billionaire former EBay chief, in a GOP primary in June, gave reporters an e-mail received by one of his advisors from her consultant Mike Murphy. In it Murphy asked, "Is there anything we can do to get SP to reconsider this race?" He added, "We can spend $40m+ tearing up Steve if we must."

Murphy also offered to "unite [the] entire party behind Steve right now" to oppose Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2012, noting that "DiFi will be 78 or 79 years old" then.

In Poizner's letter to law enforcement agencies, he said Murphy had threatened in a call to another aide to put the candidate "through the wood chipper."

Poizner told reporters that the attempts at coercing him to drop out violated state and federal law.

Whitman "does not have the right to try to manipulate this election process by clearing the field through intimidation and threats," Poizner said. "Voters need to have choices."

In a statement, Murphy called Poizner's charges "ridiculous" and the news conference "strange." He said he was "starting to worry about" Poizner's "mental condition."

Murphy said he had attempted "to avoid a costly and unnecessary Republican primary," let Poizner out of a sinking campaign and unite Republicans behind his own candidate to defeat Democrat Jerry Brown.

Law enforcement agencies said they would examine Poizner's letter but otherwise declined to comment.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

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