Turning Silicon Valley Money Into Political Power

Getty Images

The next Governor of California will be from the Bay Area.  Will it be Jerry Brown from Oakland?  Perhaps Meg Whitman or Steve Poizner from the Silicon Valley?

The next Lieutenant Governor just might be San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom.  The new Attorney General could be San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is in a fight now with former Facebook executive Chris Kelly of Palo Alto.

Throw in the names of U.S. Senate candidates Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell of the Silicon Valley and it begs the question, what's behind this political power shift to Northern California?

Bill Whalen of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, a former speech writer for Governor Pete Wilson, thinks part of what's happening is circumstantial.

"We've talked for years about how Governors came from Southern California, be it Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian.  Where is Northern California?  Part of this is coincidence."

Which means it's part something else, too.  That leads us to the Silicon Valley.  Whitman, Poizner, Fiorina, Kelly -- all of them willing to spend some of their millions on their own campaigns.

"They're in their 40s or 50s," Whalen says.  "They've climbed their mountain and conquered it, if you will.  They're restless people who are not looking to retire in the Caribbean and atrophy the rest of their life.  They want the next challenge."

These self financed candidates aren't interested in "working their way to the top" again.  Been there!  Done that!

"They're not running for the State Assembly.  They're not running for the State Senate.  They're not running for one of the Constitutional offices like Controller or Treasurer.  They're going to the very top of the pyramid,"  Whalen points out.  He says this election cycle will tell us whether this becomes more of a trend in California politics.

"If Meg Whitman spends 150 million dollars and does not win the Governorship, then I suspect there will be people in the Valley who might have political ambitions that might think, 'you know, I don't want to spend what she spent.'"

In the meantime, the old axiom that all politics is local has never been more true for voters in the Bay Area. 

Get Breaking SMS Alerts: News happens at inopportune times. But you can still be the first to know when political news breaks -- including important election-night results.
To sign up, click here, then choose 'Prop Zero.'
Contact Us