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Whitman braves heat from sun and reporters on the trail

June 3, 2010 |  4:29 pm

On a sun-soaked afternoon five days before the June 8 primary, more than 200 senior citizens skipped out on golfing, bridge and other activities to hear Republican Meg Whitman deliver her pitch Thursday.

"This is the highlight of our day," said Norm Swenson, 71, wearing fatigue pants and a gun training camp T-shirt.

"Maybe, maybe not," said Dorothy Boylan, 75, who said a prime rib dinner awaited them in the evening. The two Republicans, like many in the crowd, said they were already Whitman supporters. Several said they had already cast their ballots for her.

The former chief of EBay found a friendly audience in this manicured Roseville senior citizens community of 3,000 homes, where cars share the road with dedicated golf cart lanes. As the GOP frontrunner, Whitman assiduously avoided mentioning her primary opponent, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, by name.

"You will not find a tougher, more conservative Republican than me," Whitman said to the crowd. She touted herself as the strongest rival for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the fall.

Perhaps the greatest concern Thursday was that someone would wilt in the heat. Many senior citizens turned the Meg 2010 posters into makeshift parasols. Several huddled in the bushes to find refuge in the garden venue's fleeting bits of shade. Most stayed to listen to the woman they hope will be California's next governor.

"We'll get water out to you," one of Whitman's security staff shouted to the white-haired, almost entirely white crowd as they shuffled to their seats.

Whitman, who was joined by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. President Jon Coupal, kept her remarks brief. She touched on her three themes – jobs, education and state spending. "We have a spending problem of epic proportions," she said.

Bob Myers, a 73-year-old independent, wanted to hear more. With sweat beaded on his forehead from the heat, he complained the event was "way too staged, way too many shill questions." He had come to ask her how she might use the power of the veto to pressure the Democratic Legislature.

Whitman did stick around to take one-on-one questions from some who remained. She maneuvered with ease among her supporters, signing copies of her book and policy pamphlet for the crowd. Asked how she would handle a Democratic Legislature when so many Republicans governors fallen short of expectations, she said, "The Legislature needs to listen because they have a 9% approval rating."

Marv Boyd, an 81-year-old Republican resident, said before the event that he was leaning toward voting for Poizner because of his tough stance on illegal immigration. Afterward, Boyd, who got to ask Whitman about the state keeping bedridden and terminally ill inmates guarded, said he was "very impressed by her." But he was disappointed she never mentioned the immigration issue and remained undecided.

Whitman was not as comfortable in a short question session with reporters. After being questioned twice by a TV reporter on the issue of taxpayer funding for abortions, which Poizner has pounded in the campaign, she searched the rest of the reporters there, trying to change the topic. "Do you have a question?" she asked.

Her response on whether state tax dollars should be spent on abortions was that the issue has been "well decided by the courts and, you know, I think when you look at state's rights, state's rights is important in terms of what each state wants to do in this particular area."

Before the event began, Poizner supporters stood on the street bearing signs that read: "Stop forced taxpayer funding of the California abortion holocaust."

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sun City, Roseville.


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