Facing new poll results that show Meg Whitman with a 24-point lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary, rival Steve Poizner on Monday slammed the former EBay chief, saying she has tried to buy the nomination by spending an "obscene amount of money."
"When people really sit down to fill out their ballots or go into the election booth, I think they're going to be disturbed by the fact she hasn't voted for 28 years straight, and then all of a sudden she spends $90 million, four times more than anyone's ever spent ever in the history of Republican primaries in gubernatorial politics — four times more than me," Poizner said in an interview after speaking at a Memorial Day observance in Rancho Palos Verdes. "That amount of spending is going to really backfire on her."
A poll released Sunday, sponsored jointly by the Los Angeles Times and USC, showed Whitman trouncing Poizner 53% to 29% among voters who plan to cast ballots in the GOP primary on June 8. Poizner acknowledged that he trails Whitman but said voters are still deciding which candidate to back.
"We have a very aggressive campaign planned for the next week or so till election day, setting the record straight and laying out my vision for getting California back on track and describing my very unique background of 20 years in the business world, starting companies from scratch, as well as my eight years of success in public service," he said. "We're very confident that our message is going to break through. As people work through all of the negative, nasty, false advertising, we feel very well positioned."
Poizner said he would continue to criticize Whitman for her position on illegal immigration. His ads in recent weeks have highlighted his support for — and Whitman's opposition to — the new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigrants. He has also criticized her as a backer of amnesty for illegal immigrants; she has countered in ads that she is not.
"We spend billions and billions of dollars on taxpayer benefits for people who come here illegally. We just can't afford it anymore," Poizner said. "So I want to be a truth-teller in this campaign. I know when you mention illegal immigration as a candidate, you get criticized no matter what you say. I hope people recognize I have the guts and the tenacity and the will to address any issue, no matter the political consequences."
Poizner commented about the gubernatorial race after he spoke to about 2,500 people at a Memorial Day observance at the Green Hills Memorial Park, a ceremony that featured skydivers, a flyover by a pair of F-16 fighter jets, a 21-gun salute and the release of dozens of white doves. Speaking as the state's insurance commissioner, Poizner gave organizers a certificate of appreciation from the state. This year's observance was the 25th annual event at the cemetery.
Poizner told the crowd, gathered on a hill beneath azure skies, that he began working on counter-terrorism at the White House on Sept. 4, 2001, and worked with the nation's soldiers to create a homeland security plan in the aftermath of 9/11.
"I saw first-hand their heroics, their courage, their tenacity to keep this great country safe," said Poizner, who avoided mention of the race for governor in his remarks to the crowd. "We can't forget there are forces out there that want to destroy us, that want to destroy our way of life. It's only because of our military that our country is secure and our families are safe."
Poizner later attended a beachside Memorial Day celebration at Eisenhower Park in Seal Beach, but he did not speak at the event.
Whitman attended a Memorial Day observance at the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in La Jolla. The location has been a source of controversy in recent years because of a protracted legal battle over whether a cross erected on public land there violates the Constitution.
Whitman's staff did not immediately respond to questions about whether she had taken a position on the issue.