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Governor's race moves to Whitman's front door -- literally

July 15, 2010 | 11:58 am

The race for governor comes to Meg Whitman’s house Thursday as 1,000 members of the California Nurses Association descend on the Republican nominee’s hometown of Atherton to deliver the candidate a "special message": Back off.

The march follows an aggressive effort by Whitman’s campaign to peel off rank-and-file support from the union, which has endorsed Democratic rival Jerry Brown. Whitman's campaign is appealing directly to nurses through phone calls and mailers while attacking the union’s leadership, accusing officials of mischaracterizing her positions on key health care issues.

The union has sent horse-drawn carriages filled with actors dressed in gowns, mocking the policies of "Queen Meg," the unflattering nickname it has bestowed upon Whitman.

On Tuesday, Whitman sent a four-page letter to California nurses, asking them to join her campaign’s new advisory board. In the missive, she pledges funding for nurse training and financial aid for students while promising to rein in public employee benefits.

For its part, the nurses union has offered to host forums at which both candidates can address health care issues. Whitman has declined the group’s invitation.

"Since Meg Whitman refuses to talk directly to nurses, without the filter of her handlers and high-priced consultants, our members are coming to deliver a message to her: RNs and CNA will not be pushed around or bullied like one of her subordinates or subjects," Malinda Markowitz, co-president of the CNA, said in a statement. "California's nurses will not accept her high-handed attacks on us, or her plans to reduce public safety protections for California patients, workers, and families."

Whitman's camp had harsh words for union leaders.

"The radical leadership of the California Nurses Association has decided to spend untold thousands of dollars from members’ dues on a stunt," said Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for Whitman. "How many nurses are being forced to use sick days to attend this political theater? While Meg believes it is important for all California nurses to know her true positions on the issues, she’ll focus on having a meaningful conversation without the partisan politics."

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

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