Last week San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom announced his candidacy for CA governor with a tweet heard round the state. But he's not the only candidate with technological savvy. Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Internet giant eBay, announced her bid back in February. Whitman, a Republican, wants to become the first woman to run the golden state. She was a national co-chair of John McCain's campaign, but her work experience lies in the private sector.
I chatted with the chair of Meg's Women's Coalition, Jillian Manis, to find out how Meg plans to appeal to women for votes. From our conversation, I got the sense that Meg sees herself as a different breed of Republican than, say, a certain female governor from Alaska.
While she's fiscally conservative, Meg is pro-choice and has a bit of a tangled stance on gay marriage — she voted for Prop. 8 because she personally feels marriage should be between a man and a woman, but she claims to respect everyone's position. In other words, she doesn't want to make opposition to same-sex marriage a crucial plank in her platform. Here's a recap of my conversation with Jillian.
- Why will Meg appeal to women?
First of all, I don't think women vote for a gender. I really don't think they vote for a party for the most part, either. I think they vote for the person. And I think that Meg is a person that represents a leadership perspective that is both domestic and global, which will be extremely helpful right now as this world is flat and we do need to create relationships with other states and countries to move our state forward. (By working at eBay) she understands what interdependence is, what community building is.
- Positions on female reproductive rights, especially abortion, typically separate the two parties. How does Meg explain her pro-choice position, since it's unlikely for a Republican candidate?
I think Meg has always preached inclusion. I think she very much respects people's choices. . . She's not going to force her own personal choices on others. That's not about working together that's about driving each other apart. I would say I'm socially moderate and fiscally conservative, but that has been redefined here in California and definitely in the Republican party. We are definitely more progressive and more inclusive than the rest of the country vis-a-vis our party. I know Sarah Palin doesn't represent me.
- So Meg is pro-choice because she doesn't want to force her own choices on others. How was her Pro Proposition 8 stance consistence with her stance on abortion?
- Meg never gave money to Prop 8. She never made a public stand on Prop 8. It basically came down to when she went into the voting booth she voted for her personal choice. And that is something we have to respect. It doesn't mean she's going to change the laws. I am personally pro-life, but I am publicly pro-choice. I would never force my choice, nor would she, on somebody else.
- Miss California came out against gay marriage personally, which she says cost her the crown. Obviously Miss USA and governor are different, but do you think that Meg's personal support of a constitutional amendment that ended gay marriage could derail her chance to be governor?
- Well, I would hope not because we have too many big problems on our plate here in California and everything that Meg Whitman represents should be weighed equally. . . Her ability to stimulate this economy, to give people jobs, to re-energize, to apply technology to make government more efficient, to look at clean tech solutions for our environment, these are things that we should look at. . . So to make gay marriage the center piece of this election than shame us! And by the way we need to respect her as she's respecting us. And she does respect a women's right to choice and she does respect every body's choice.
To see Jillian's response to this question, and for more on Meg's thoughts on gay marriage, read more.
From what you've read, do you think Meg sounds like a different kind of Republican candidate, or do you find her stances predictable?