Campbell exits governor's race 

Former congressman Tom Campbell said Thursday he is dropping his longshot bid for governor in favor of running for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who Republicans see as vulnerable this year.

In a letter sent Thursday to donors and other supporters, Campbell said political pragmatism forced him from a race in which he was squeezed between two mega-rich opponents. He has had difficulty attracting donors and raising his profile in the gubernatorial contest.

His exit leaves former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Poizner to battle for the GOP nomination. Each of those candidates has donated $19 million to their respective campaigns.

Campbell, who is 57 and also has made a living as a college business professor, cited that dynamic as a key consideration in his decision.

"The path of public service and teaching is rewarding, but it does not afford one the ability to invest millions of dollars in a campaign for office," he said in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

He scheduled a news conference for 9 a.m. Thursday at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport to formally announce his decision.

His switch to the Republican primary contest for the Senate seat changes the dynamics of that race. He will be pitted against former Hewlett-Packaged chief executive Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, who have been campaigning for months.

Boxer, 69, is running for a fourth term and faces no major challengers in the Democratic primary.

DeVore was quick to respond to Thursday's development, believing Campbell will split the votes of moderate Republicans with Fiorina and give him a better shot at winning the June primary. DeVore is well-regarded by the most conservative wing of the state Republican Party.

"I don't think there's room in the race for two Silicon Valley moderates," DeVore said.

This will be Campbell's third bid for a U.S. Senate seat in California, a fact noted by Fiorina's campaign. He lost in 1992 and again in 2000, when he won the GOP primary but was routed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who received about 2 million more votes.

"If Tom Campbell thinks the third time's a charm in running for the Senate, he may find out that it's more like three strikes-and-you're-out with California voters," Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said.

Campbell, a soft-spoken former state finance director, had been running second in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination behind Whitman. The winner of that primary is likely to face Democrat Jerry Brown, the state's former governor, in the general election contest to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is in his final year in office.

David Teece, a professor at Berkeley's business school and a longtime friend of Campbell's, said the candidate believed he could be more competitive financially in the Senate race.

"He doesn't have a warchest," said Teece, a donor who said he spoke with Campbell about a month ago when he was weighing the two races. "I think he was feeling a little frustrated with the fundraising. You can't deny access to money is important for communication resources."

A former five-term congressman representing Silicon Valley, Campbell also has served as dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, as an economics professor at Stanford, as a state senator and as a former budget director for Schwarzenegger.

He has a doctorate in economics and is a disciple of the late University of Chicago free-market economist Milton Friedman.

He said the state of the U.S. economy and growing reach of the federal government also attracted him to the Senate race, telling supporters the nation is in the midst of an epic fiscal crisis.

"When I look at our representation in Washington, I see Senator Boxer over the last 28 years has contributed to the uncontrolled rise in federal spending," Campbell said in a video posted Thursday morning on his Web site. "Truly in my lifetime, I've never seen the deficit grow so quickly in Washington. Last year alone, we increased the size of the federal deficit more than three times. That's suicidal. We cannot continue to do that."

While Campbell's economic credentials will win him points among conservatives, many Republican primary voters are likely to be wary of his social views.

He is pro-choice and favors gay marriage. His recommendation to raise the gasoline tax to help eliminate California's budget deficit runs counter to the prevailing view among Republicans, who have been pushing their candidates in recent years to sign a no-new-taxes pledge.

It's not clear whether Campbell will have better luck raising money for a Senate bid, but at least the playing field will be a bit more level than it was against Whitman and Poizner.

He told supporters earlier this month that he had raised $1 million. Fiorina, meanwhile, loaned her campaign $2.5 million from her personal fortune and had $2.7 million cash on hand. DeVore, who has $140,000 cash-on-hand, has waged an ambitious grassroots campaign to court GOP primary voters.

Dan Schnur, director of the University of Southern California's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, surmised that Campbell may have felt squeezed out of the governor's race because the immense wealth of his competitors allowed them to communicate with voters in a way he could not.

"There's a natural allure to running against one zillionaire rather than two," he said.

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