The California Republican Party’s decline continues, as former GOP Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is dropping the party affiliation to run again as an independent.
Poizner and incumbent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 were the last successful Republican candidates on the party’s slate to win a statewide office. Poizner ran for governor in 2010, but he was defeated in the Republican primary by first-time candidate Meg Whitman, who spent a record $71 million of her own money to win by a margin of 2 to 1.
Many rank-and-file California Republicans were disgusted that a Silicon Valley billionaire could apparently buy her way onto the Republican Party establishment ticket while being soft on illegal immigration, pro-choice, and a Goldman Sachs board member.
Whitman spent another $73 million of her own money in the general election, but she was crushed 54 percent to just 40 percent by Democrat Attorney General Jerry Brown.
California has historically had a higher registration percentage for Democrats than Republicans since the 1930s. But since the end of WWII, 6 of the 10 state’s governors have been Republicans, and one Democrat governor was also recalled by voters.
But with Democratic Party voter registration holding steady for decades, Republican registration has fallen over the last two decades from about 35 percent of voters to about 25 percent. Many of the GOP registration losses re-registered as Independents, who rose from 12 percent in 1997 to 25 percent recently, according to the Secretary of State.
Poizner is a brilliant tech entrepreneur, having worked for Boston Consulting Group and amassed a $1 billion net worth from by starting and then selling three Silicon Valley companies involved in global mapping, cyber-security, and big data analytics.
Poizner told SFGate.com blog that running for state insurance commissioner as a candidate unaffiliated with any political party, “really fits the post. There’s no room for partisan politics.” He added, “The insurance commissioner needs to be fiercely independent.”
The strategy directly targets independent voters for the June primary, and could mean he will be one of the top two vote-getters to qualify for the November general election.
Poizner racked up victories for consumers in his four years from 2007 to 2011 in office, including handling property claims for the 2007 San Diego wildfires, slashing the department’s discretionary operating budget by 13 percent, and overseeing 2,800 fraud arrests associated with the California Disability Insurance Fund.
Despite not running as a Republican, Poizner is a favorite of the party conservatives and Tea Party members. Poizner’s 2010 governor primary campaign received the endorsement of hard-core conservative Republican Congressman Tom McClintock.
Democrat State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is the leading Democrat running for California Insurance Commissioner, and Insurance Agency Owner and serial candidate Peter Kuo is the only Republican running for the post.