Big money bites Tom Campbell

Thomas D. Elias:

Tom Campbell admitted it quite frankly the morning he dropped out of the run for governor and into a crowded race for the Republican nomination to challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next fall:

"Pragmatism told me I could no longer continue in (the governor's) race," Campbell soberly said. "I never had the opportunity to make a lot of personal wealth."

Campbell has been a law professor, state senator, business school dean, spent nine years in Congress and a couple as the state budget director. None of those posts are noted for their low salaries, but they won't usually make anyone a billionaire, either.

The bottom line won out as Campbell switched to a lower-priced race. He could not compete with the two zillionaires left in the Republican race for governor (one admits to be being a billionaire; the other denies it, but plainly is close). Both Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner talk a lot about how many others have contributed to their campaigns. But there's no denying that Whitman's $19 million contribution to her campaign and Poizner's $15 million donation to his drove the ultra-qualified Campbell away. The checks Whitman and Poizner wrote to themselves dwarf the totals all others have given them.

So it is now certain there will be no triangulation effect this year like the one that gave then-Lt. Gov. Gray Davis the 1998 Democratic nomination for governor over two ultra-wealthy self-funded candidates, former Northwest Airlines chairman Al Checchi and Los Angeles Congresswoman Jane Harman.

The question now is whether anyone will ever again manage to compete against the super-rich in a party primary election for a major office. So far, all the self-funded except Arnold Schwarzenegger have lost in runoff elections. The corps of the defeated over the last 40 years includes the likes of Norton Simon, William Matson Roth, Michael Huffington plus Checchi and Harman. But costs for airing television commercials are higher than ever. So are the transportation costs so vital to a campaign.

Read the rest of the story here.

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