Poizner tells supporters he'll continue to fight

Republican state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner told a group of supporters Saturday in Modesto that he's still in the fight to become California's next governor, despite trailing badly in the polls.

If elected in November, he vowed to implement a series of sweeping government reforms to pull the state out of its economic crisis.

"Now that we're bankrupt and out of cash, it's a great time to review everything," Poizner said to more than 130 people at a town hall meeting at the Eichel Building on West Orangeburg Avenue in Modesto.

Poizner faces former eBay Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman in the June 8 Republican primary.

Late last month, Whitman pitched her business savvy and experience to the Modesto Chamber of Commerce as a means to cut through state government bureaucracy.

Poizner also spoke about his beginnings -- in the Silicon Valley, running high-tech companies for 20 years before seeking public office.

He said a sense of duty is behind his vision to revamp state government and would include cutting state income, sales and corporation taxes by 10 percent. Poizner also wants to cut the capital gains tax by 50 percent, all in an effort to attract more business and jobs to California.

No 'half measures'

"We're in the worst economic collapse in years," he said. "I want to take California in a different direction. It's going to involve sweeping reforms, half measures won't do."

Poizner said he wants to reduce spending and downsize government, just as he did with a 15 percent spending cut in his own department.

Poizner, like Whitman, lists creating jobs and fixing public education as priorities. But, he said, there are some differences.

Poizner favors across-the-board tax cuts, which he believes will be far-reaching.

He said he supports such core conservative values as anti-gay marriage legislation, ending government funding of abortions and cutting taxpayer-funded benefits for people who entered the country illegally.

Poizner pledged to go after employers who hire those who entered the country illegally.

"I will revoke their business licenses," he said.

40-point lead

The difference between Poizner and Whitman in recent polls is becoming more evident with less than two months before the primary.

The Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California survey released April 5 has Whitman holding a 40-point lead over Poizner.

The statewide poll has Whitman with a three-point lead over state Attorney General Jerry Brown, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor. Whitman's slight lead over Brown is within the survey's margin of error.

Nevertheless, Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, said Poizner is still in the game, and he expects to see Poizner become governor.

Berryhill, who introduced Poizner on Saturday, said sometimes "a good old-fashioned fight" is what the political process needs.

"I support friends, and I support causes," Berryhill said. "Steve Poizner is the right cause at the right time."

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at or 578-2394.