By Ashley Menzies
Business mogul Meg Whitman has spent a record-setting $119 million of her own money on her campaign for governor thus far. This former CEO of eBay has taken her great fortune and made sure that Californians get her message loud and clear. She has shattered California campaign spending records and has overwhelmed television and radio with a barrage of over 45,000 ads, with two-thirds of those ads attacking her opponent Jerry Brown.
While Whitman has been running ads since February, Brown just ran his first ad last week. As of August, he has only spent $24 million. Although Brown may not be able to compete financially, he is definitely competing in the polls. A recent poll by CNN shows that Whitman and Brown are even.
Many have argued that Whitman is essentially buying the governor’s office. But the position may not be for sale. Despite the massive amount of money she has poured into her campaign, she is even with her opponent less than two months before the election.
It is important to note that Whitman needed to outspend Brown in order to have a chance at winning because she was unknown to many Californians before the election. Brown’s extensive background in politics and former governorship of California placed him at a clear advantage. And Whitman has used her personal finances to stay competitive in the race.
This disparity in finances has affected staffing and the force of each candidate’s campaign. Brown has eight campaign workers, five fundraisers, and a small group of volunteers. Whitman, on the other hand, has sixty-six campaign staffers and a great deal of consultants.
But her money and campaign staff may not be enough. Her questionable voting record and lack of political experience compared to the very experienced Californian politician has many wondering whether or not she can take on such a massive job, especially with California’s current economic state. Brown has served as Governor of California, Secretary of State of California, Chair of the California Democratic Party, Mayor of Oakland, and the Attorney General of California. Whitman has never held political office.
Brown has been criticized for running a slow and frugal campaign. But he is simply living up to his economical reputation, which is reflected in his politics. As governor, he refused to stay in the newly built governor’s mansion and chose a modest apartment near the Capitol. He chose a Plymouth Satellite over a chauffeured limousine. Brown also built up one of the largest budget surpluses in state history.
Despite Brown’s frugal reputation, many political pundits said that waiting to campaign until Labor Day would give Whitman, with her loads of money, an invincible lead. But Brown believes he had no choice.
“She’s advertising every day and I gotta wait because I don’t have the same kind of money,” said Brown on KTTV in Los Angeles in July. “I’m not a billionaire.”
According to the polls, Brown’s approach seems to be successful. Whitman has outspent and out-campaigned Brown to a large extent. As we head into the final month of campaigning with Whitman and Brown dead even at the polls, both candidates are gearing up and preparing for their final push to win over independent voters. Brown’s campaign could be a prime example of how slow and steady wins the race.