- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | She uses a chartered jet; he flies Southwest. Her mentor was Mitt Romney; he worked for Mother Teresa. She pays her chief campaign consultant $90,000 a month; his worked for free most of last year.

Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown are fighting for the same job, but that’s where the similarities end for the two candidates running for California governor.

Come November, voters in the financially troubled state will have two stark choices: the billionaire former eBay CEO who has never before run for office and rarely even voted, or the heir of a political dynasty who is famous for his frugality and once studied Zen Buddhism.

The deep differences in their lives and personalities will do more than ensure a lively election season. They also will give both sides ample material for attacks.

Mr. Brown already is trying to undercut Mrs. Whitman’s message by assaulting her Wall Street connections and lavish campaign spending, including “white glove service” on private jets and fancy fundraisers in Beverly Hills.

On primary night, he likened Mrs. Whitman to the current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like Mrs. Whitman, he campaigned as an outsider with business savvy, yet he has failed to deliver the budget and tax reforms he promised.

“It’s not enough for someone rich and restless to look in the mirror one morning and decide, ‘I want to be governor of California.’ We tried that. It didn’t work,” said Mr. Brown, the current state attorney general.

Mrs. Whitman’s campaign is trying to offer California a “new beginning,” in a not-so-subtle jab at Mr. Brown’s four-decade-long political career. She has characterized her 72-year-old opponent as a man without fresh ideas who will serve organized labor and other entrenched interests in Sacramento.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Can elections be bought?’ The answer is, elections can’t be bought, but candidates can and Jerry Brown is bought and paid for by the unions,” Mrs. Whitman, 53, said a day after her primary victory.

Mrs. Whitman, the Republican, grew up in an upper-middle-class household on Long Island, N.Y., and attended Princeton and Harvard before starting a corporate career at Proctor & Gamble, Disney and Hasbro. She brought her executive pedigree to eBay in 1998 and helped the online auction site mature into a multibillion-dollar company. The company made her a billionaire, and she now lives in Atherton, a Silicon Valley suburb that is among the state’s top five wealthiest communities.

She once told Fortune magazine that others would probably describe her as “frumpy,” but she’s comfortable in the business world.

Despite her wealth, Mrs. Whitman thanks her mother for instilling a sense of frugality. In her book, “The Power of Many,” she recalled that as a child, the Whitman family would vacation on St. John in the Caribbean by camping in a toolshed - paying the owner for the privilege - when they couldn’t get a campsite.

She wrote that as a consultant at Bain & Company, where she worked with Mr. Romney, she “found it fun to ferret out waste.” She got her first taste of politics when Mr. Romney ran for president.

Mrs. Whitman now pledges to root out government waste, specifically by eliminating 40,000 state workers.

Mrs. Whitman’s enormous campaign apparatus could not be more different from Democrat Brown’s approach. His chief campaign consultant was unpaid for most of last year and still makes $75,000 a month less than Whitman’s adviser. Mr. Brown frequently talks with reporters one-on-one - not always to his advantage.

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