Meg Whitman: Governor Of California?

03/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman on Monday took her first official step toward running for California governor in 2010, launching an exploratory committee to seek the Republican nomination.

The move allows the 52-year-old to raise campaign funds. She has been active in politics since leaving the online auction site in January 2008, serving as finance chairwoman for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and then as a national co-chair of John McCain's.

"California faces challenges unlike any other time in its history _ a weak and faltering economy, massive job losses and an exploding state budget deficit," Whitman said in a statement on her Web site. "California is better than this, and I refuse to stand by and watch it fail."

Whitman was not available for interviews Monday, said her spokesman, Mitch Zak.

Former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson, who will serve as Whitman's campaign chairman, said the party needs a compelling candidate like Whitman to revive itself. President Barack Obama defeated McCain in California by 24 percentage points last year, the widest margin in a presidential race in the state since World War II.

"I think that she will be sort of a classic California Republican who demands that money be spent wisely, and not too much of it, and not more than we have," Wilson said in an interview Monday. "She will definitely be a taxpayer's friend and a friend to the people who create jobs."

Whitman promoted her financial experience during the presidential campaign but has not revealed her positions on social issues such as abortion, stem-cell research and the death penalty. She supported the gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November.

Other potential GOP candidates for the job Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must leave because of term limits include Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner _ another wealthy former Silicon Valley executive _ and former Rep. Tom Campbell.

The Democratic field is expected to include former governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has not said whether she will run or remain in Congress.

Villaraigosa said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press that although he's seeking another four-year term as mayor this spring, he's leaving the door open to a gubernatorial run next year.