INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman sought to redirect attention from her spotty voting record Saturday as she promoted a platform of fiscal discipline to the party faithful.
Last week, The Sacramento Bee reported that according to voter registration records, the 53-year-old billionaire and former eBay CEO was not a registered voter until 2002. The newspaper reported that no voter registration records for Whitman could be found in any of of the places that they reviewed ("six states and a dozen counties, including towns and counties in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California...").
Speaking to the state Republican Party convention near Palm Springs, Whitman outlined a program of severe austerity for state government if she is elected next year.
She promised to slash an additional $15 billion in spending and reduce the state government work force by 40,000, reiterating points she made earlier in the week when she formally announced her candidacy. She provided no details about how she would achieve those goals.
Whitman told GOP delegates that California simply can no longer afford the level of government service it has been providing.
"If elected, I will identify and implement at least $15 billion in permanent spending cuts from the state budget. I'll eliminate redundant and underperforming government agencies and commissions," she said.
Whitman's speech did not touch on questions that have surrounded the campaign for days, after The Sacramento Bee published the results of an investigation into her voting record.
Shortly after Whitman gave the state party $250,000 of her own money for voter-registration efforts, the Bee reported there was no evidence that she had ever registered to vote before 2002 and she had not registered as a Republican until 2007.
On Saturday, Whitman refused to answer repeated questions from reporters about the issue.
"I did not vote. I should've voted. It is inexcusable," she said. "I've said what I'm going to say about it."
One of Whitman's opponents for the GOP nomination, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, has called on her to drop out of the race. He said Whitman's apparent failure to participate in elections for 28 years suggests a lack of engagement in politics and government.
Poizner also faced questions from reporters about previous campaign donations to Democrats, including the presidential campaign of Al Gore. He said his wife is a Democrat and they share a joint checking account.
"The fact is, I've been a Republican since 1981 and I am married to someone who's been a Democrat her whole life. ... We've had some very interesting dinnertime conversations," he said.
Poizner promoted his proposal to cut the personal income, corporate and sales taxes, which he said will generate revenue by allowing existing businesses to grow and attracting new ones.
The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, former congressman Tom Campbell, criticized both of his opponents for failing to provide sufficient details about how they would revive California's economy and cut spending. Campbell released his own budget proposal in May detailing $17.5 billion in cuts.
He also took issue with Poizner's strategy of cutting taxes as a way to boost tax revenue to the state.
"You cut first and then you can lower taxes," he said. "When we cut spending by 17 cents, then we can cut taxes by 17 cents."