So much for the undeserved stereotype of California Republicans voting lemming-like for the most conservative, unelectable contenders. Tuesday, GOP voters rejected the most conservative candidates in favor of moderate hopefuls generally deemed to be more likely to win in November.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman trounced Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner with 64 percent of the vote. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina beat two tough opponents with 56 percent. Most candidates endorsed by former Gov. Pete Wilson, like Whitman, won big. Almost all of those endorsed by conservative demigod Tom McClintock tanked. It wasn't even close.
Down ticket, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a GOP moderate, fended off more conservative competition. In the attorney general's race, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley won despite charges that he was not sufficiently tough on crime.
My fave: After Politico.com flogged the story that birther Orly Taitz could win the nod for secretary of state, Orange County real estate developer Damon Dunn won 74 percent of the vote. Ha, ha.
The Democratic Party, on the other hand, eschewed the center and trended far left in contested primaries by nominating San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor and S.F. District Attorney Kamala Harris for attorney general.
So help me: Who are the ideologues here?
I continue to harbor doubts about the electability of Whitman and Fiorina, given their spotty voting records and lack of political experience. As the now-official Democratic gubernatorial nominee, state Attorney General Jerry Brown, said Tuesday night, "It's not enough for someone rich and restless to look in the mirror one morning and decide, 'Hey, it's time to be governor of California.'"
Whitman had some good lines of her own. Such as: Brown "has aligned nearly every single interest group in Sacramento against us. And that means favors will be owed to every power broker with a vested interest in keeping our state budget broken, our schools underperforming and the state pension system spinning into insolvency."
On Wednesday, Brown called for 10 town hall debates. Whitman's response? She told reporters, there will be "plenty of debates, but what I would say to Jerry Brown is instead of calling for debates, he should lay out his plan for California."
Don't hold your breath on that score. When I asked Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford earlier this week when and if Brown would present his own budget plan -- as Whitman has done -- the answer essentially was that Brown would work with the Legislature to come up with "collaborative" solutions.
Now you would think Whitman would leap for the chance to point out that working too well with big-spending lawmakers beholden to special interests got California into this soup. But her campaign is about as nimble as a large cruise ship in a small harbor. No script-ee, no talk-ee.
Expect more real action U.S. Senate-side. Tuesday night, Sen. Barbara Boxer's campaign invited Fiorina to debate. Fiorina responded Wednesday, "Bring it on. Anytime, anywhere."
And: "Barbara, meet me in Mendota," where the unemployment rate is 40 percent, thanks in part to federal water policies. If they both mean what they say -- never a given in politics -- Boxer and Fiorina aren't afraid of a fair fight.
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