Former EBay CEO Meg Whitman isn’t the first Californian who, after striking it rich in business, decided to try his or her hand at politics -- the likes of Michael Huffington, Al Checchi and even our current governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had little or no political experience when they spent part of their fortunes on the quest for high office.
Yet even among such dilettantes, the abruptness of Whitman’s conversion from businesswoman to politician stands out. Not only has the 2010 gubernatorial candidate never held office, but an analysis of her record by the Sacramento Bee showed that she hadn’t even registered to vote until she was 46 years old, and only became a Republican two years ago.
Among other elections in which Whitman couldn’t be bothered to cast a ballot, such as the nailbiter 2000 presidential contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, she didn’t even vote in the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis that swept Schwarzenegger to power, one of the most high-turnout elections in state history.
Of course, a candidate’s voting record is just one of many factors considered by voters, and not the most important. Whitman may have a perfectly good reason for her apparent apathy -- maybe she was too busy raising two sons and running a Fortune 500 company to make it to the polls. Yet she has offered no such explanation; her response to questions about her polling no-shows, which were a major topic of conversation during the Republican Party convention over the weekend, has been to apologize and say she has “no excuse” for not participating. And it’s not as if she didn’t have time to formulate an answer; most of the revelations about her voting history came out, and were acknowledged by her, months ago.
It’s far too early to rule Whitman out as a candidate. And just because she failed to vote doesn’t mean she lacks the skills to do the job well. As a voter, Whitman might have been disengaged, but as CEO of one of California’s largest tech companies, she surely was not.
Still, it’s surprising, and of some concern, that someone so seemingly uninterested in politics would suddenly want to govern what is perhaps the most ungovernable state in the union.