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Which gubernatorial candidate has a black belt in karate?

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Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010 12:00 am

Just back from governmental affairs day in Sacramento sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Featured was Steve Poizner, running against Meg Whitman to be the Republican nominee for governor.

A few notes on Poizner — and other takeaways from the session:

• Poizner has a black belt in karate.

• Spent a year as a volunteer high school teacher in San Jose and loved it. "After serving eight years as governor, I am definitely going back to teaching."

• Is a self-described geek with an electrical engineering degree from U. of Texas and an MBA from Stanford. A rich geek: He founded two successful tech companies, including one that put GPS receivers in 700 million cell phones globally.

• A big supporter of charter schools, limiting welfare, working toward bipartisan solutions and transparency in government. "I want to put every dime of state spending on the Web so the media and the public have access to it. Most people will be amazed at the amount of waste here."

• He'd eliminate regulatory barriers and allow out-of-state health insurance companies to operate in California, increasing competition.

• With California being in a recession, with the legislature drawing popularity ratings just above the H1N1 virus, why does he want to be governor? "This is when great leaders step up. There is so much to fix. This is the perfect time to be a reformer."

• Whitman, by the way, was invited but didn't show.

Other notes:

• A state senate resolution was presented to Tim Crews, publisher of the Sacramento Valley Mirror in Willows. Crews is pretty much a one-man band keeping the journalistic flame aglow in his community, publishing hard-hitting investigative pieces that make government big wigs squirm. He went to jail for five days for refusing to give up confidential sources in a case that involved a cop who stole a gun.

Crews is no silk-sleeved pundit on Fox or CNN opining above the fray.

Just a guy who works his tail off in relative obscurity to keep the journalistic ideal alive.

• State Treasurer Bill Lockyer spoke (he's been a featured guest at previous GA days) and was typically literate and reflective.

A Democrat, Lockyer made the case that Californians are not heavily taxed; we're only slightly above the national average in the amount of state taxes we pay. He said Republicans have contributed to the state's fiscal meltdown by cutting taxes while expanding prisons. The prison system, he pointed out, has grown much faster and taken a much bigger portion of the state's budget than has education.

He lamented the legislature's lack of collegiality but said "drinking and playing poker together," as in the old days, isn't the solution. "It is the glue that is missing and I am not sure how to go about replacing it."