Commentary: California gubernatorial race's strange family feud

In this weird political year, Meg Whitman, the candidate who has trashed public employee unions, is cozying up to one of the most influential labor leaders this state has ever seen.

Don Novey, the fedora-wearing strategist who built the California Correctional Peace Officers Association into a fearsome political force, is supporting Whitman in her run for governor against Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"My whole life has been in California," Novey told me, predicting Whitman would inject needed leadership if she wins. "If this state doesn't get back on track, we're in big trouble."

It is, to say the least, an odd alliance between a lifelong union man and a billionaire who has called for a massive reduction of the state work force and regularly slaps at Brown for being heavily backed by labor.

In the campaign within the campaign, Novey's former union has endorsed Brown, becoming the latest of many public employee unions to embrace the attorney general's candidacy. While Whitman and Brown battle for your votes, Novey is embroiled in a bare-knuckled personal war with his successor as CCPOA president, his one-time friend Mike Jimenez.

Novey retired as CCPOA's president in 2002 but remained as a consultant. That arrangement ended a week before Christmas last year when Jimenez fired him and the union sued him in an acrimonious case that continues.

"I'm really disappointed in him. I think he has let the troops down," Novey said of Jimenez, who could not be reached for comment.

Family feuds often are the fiercest, and this one is playing out in the race for governor. Insiders took notice when Novey and the unions he represents as a consultant – the California State Law Enforcement Association, a 7,000-member state union, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, representing 9,900 Los Angeles cops – announced support for Whitman.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.