Candidates Blitz State in Final Push for Votes

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In a last weekend of frenzied campaigning before the June 8 primary,
candidates for statewide office marshaled last-minute ads, attacks –
even visits from Karl Rove and a fictional “Queen Meg” – to appeal to
voters in what’s been a record-breaking season of political spending.

GOP billionaire and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who has spent a
stunning $81 million on her gubernatorial primary effort, dropped a few
more dollars Sunday by offering free barbecue and live music to
supporters who showed up at rallies in Madera and Sacramento.

Whitman, boosted in recent polls suggesting she’s got a 2-to-1 lead
over State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, was accompanied by
former Gov. Pete Wilson at the rallies.

But Whitman was dogged at both locations by colorful protesters from
the California Nurses Association hoping to remind voters of her pricey

The nurses staged a parade starring a fictional “Queen Meg,”
complete with crown, royal chariot, and retinue including “Lord Romney”
(a dig at Whitman supporter Mitt Romney). They also put up ads on
Spanish-language media regarding Whitman’s connections with Wilson, an
unpopular figure among Latino voters for his support of the
controversial anti-illegal immigration measure Proposition 187.

Poizner hit a town hall meeting in Riverside on Saturday and a
Christian church in Norwalk on Sunday to talk up immigration enforcement
and continue to keep the heat on Whitman.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared eager
to draw a contrast to Whitman in an opinion piece in the San Diego Union
Tribune. He argued he would be a governor who relies on frugality, and
is best positioned to get the state’s problems under control because
he knows the legislature’s “history and its governing structure.”

In the race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Barbara
Boxer, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – who appears to have
the momentum in a contentious Republican primary – hit a phone bank in
San Luis Obispo to encourage supporters.

“We must fire Barbara Boxer in November, and I am the only candidate
in this race positioned to do so,” said Fiorina.

Rove helps DeVore

But another GOP challenger, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine, got
help from former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove at a Jewish
Republican dinner in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The third GOP candidate seeking the nomination, former South Bay
Rep. Tom Campbell, held one of his signature tele-town hall meetings
Sunday, arguing he’s earned every major newspaper endorsement in the
contest and is the only Republican shown in polls to beat Boxer in a
head-to-head race.

In the Democratic race for attorney general, the campaign of
candidate Chris Kelly, the former Facebook privacy officer, filed a
complaint Sunday against the Voter Fund. Kelly’s campaign
alleged the group violated the election law of making an independent
expenditure by purchasing $140,000 in radio ads on behalf of San
Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Harris campaign spokesman Brian Brokaw charged last week that Kelly,
who has donated $12 million toward his own campaign, is a “panicking
candidate” who has resorted to increasingly desperate attacks.

Drives against initiatives

Two initiatives backed by expensive corporate efforts were also the
focus of last-minute vote drives.

A leading consumer advocate charged Prop. 17’s chief sponsor,
Mercury Insurance, of fraudulently suggesting in recent mailers that the
Consumer Coalition of California backs the measure.

That coalition is “run by a Texas woman, Virginia Jarrow, who has
repeatedly sided with industry,” said Harvey Rosenfield, founder of
Consumer Watchdog, who also said Mercury failed to identify itself as an
insurance firm in mailers as mandated by law.

Kathy Fairbanks, who heads the pro-Prop. 17 group, said the Consumer
Watchdog allegations are “completely unfounded” and evidence of the
group’s desperation in the final days of the campaign.

Mercury says the measure will allow consumers to get “continuous
coverage” auto insurance discounts when they change companies, but
Consumer Watchdog argues it will allow surcharges for tens of thousands
of Californians, such as students and military personnel, who haven’t
maintained continuous insurance.

Also Sunday, opponents of Prop. 16, a ballot measure funded by
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., scored their biggest endorsement to date –
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The most powerful woman in American politics urged Californians to
reject the measure, which would require cities and counties to win the
approval of two-thirds of their voters before spending public funds to
enter the electricity business.

“Proposition 16 would make it more difficult for communities to
choose more renewable energy through public power,” she said in a

E-mail Carla Marinucci at [email protected].
Chronicle staff writer David R. Baker contributed to this report.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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