Poizner speaks to conservatives in Modesto bakery

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner made an appearance in Modesto on Friday, telling voters he was the candidate with the true conservative values in the race for governor.

For about 10 minutes, he spoke with Roger Hedgecock, a conservative radio host from Southern California who brought his show to the Lunch Pail bakery in north Modesto. Poizner then mingled with the crowd that packed the eatery.

Poizner's appearance was cut short so he could attend family gatherings for his daughter's graduation, his staff said.

With 10 days before the June 8 primary, polls show Poizner trailing Meg Whitman in the race for the GOP nomination.

He said on the air that Whitman has lavished close to $9 million on her campaign, four times more than he has spent.

Poizner maintains his opponent is soft on the issue of illegal immigration, but said he supports Arizona's crackdown on people who are in the country illegally.

He said he would stop taxpayer-funded benefits for undocumented immigrants and revoke the business licenses of employers who hire them.

Hedgecock's questions seemed to play to his right-wing audience, prompting Poizner to cite a key endorsement from arch-conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay. "Tom McClintock endorses me. What else do you need to know?" he said.

Poizner said the policies of the Democrat-dominated Legislature have bankrupted state government.

If elected governor, he said, he would be willing to use ballot initiates to push his plan for getting the state's economy back on track. The plan involves cutting the sales tax, as well as corporate and income taxes.

After the interview, he was asked how tax cuts would fix the state's budget deficit. He explained that California assesses more than 900 taxes, far more than neighboring states. Cutting taxes would encourage business investment in California, thereby expanding the tax base and generating revenue for the state's depleted coffers, he said.

Poizner did not answer one question from Hedgecock, about Whitman's claim that he gave money to former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore. But a woman pressed him for an answer as he left the bakery.

He explained that his wife is a lifelong Democrat and "some family money went to Gore 10 years ago."

Hedgecock chided Whitman for not accepting invitations to appear on the show. Whitman's appearance in Modesto came Thursday when she spoke to about 100 people at a Modesto tractor dealership.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or 578-2321.