Politics & Government

In California politics, wealth doesn't equate to easy election

Al Checchi, Bill Simon, Jane Harman, Michael Huffington, Steve Westly …

The list of super-rich candidates who limped away from Election Day in defeat is long in California. It's about to get longer next year.

The curse of the self-financed, wealthy candidate is being tested yet again, as two tech billionaires, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, vie for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Another wealthy candidate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, opened an exploratory committee this month to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

As the campaigns prepare to heat up after Labor Day, the three Republicans share more than deep pockets and promises to apply corporate discipline to government.

They're also confronting voters who haven't been kind to wealthy candidates, many with little political experience.

That history includes energy executive Huffington's record-breaking, unsuccessful Senate campaign and businessman Ron Unz's gubernatorial loss in 1994, Checchi's and Harman's doomed gubernatorial campaigns in 1998, Simon's failed run for governor four years later and eBay executive Westly's unsuccessful bid for the same office in 2006.

Notable exceptions are Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who spent about $5 million of his own money — out of $19.4 million raised — in the 2003 recall campaign and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who spent $2.5 million of her fortune — out of $12.5 million — to narrowly defeat Huffington.

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