DAVIS, Calif. � Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman said Tuesday that it wasn't until she was a chief executive in Silicon Valley that she realized why she should vote after sitting out elections for decades.
Whitman sought to explain her spotty voting record for the first time after delivering a speech to a Republican women's group.
"I was focused on raising a family, on my husband's career, and we moved many, many times," she told reporters. "It is no excuse. My voting record, my registration record, is unacceptable."
During the state GOP convention in Indian Wells last weekend, Whitman repeatedly refused to answer questions about her voting record after The Sacramento Bee reported that the former eBay CEO was not registered to vote before 2002 and there was no evidence she had ever registered as a Republican before 2007.
She told delegates at the Republican convention last February that she had been registered as a decline-to-state voter since 1998. Whitman said Tuesday that while she doesn't remember saying it, "that was a mistake."
Also Tuesday, Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown took the first step toward a gubernatorial bid in 2010, filing paperwork with the secretary of state's office to form an exploratory committee.
The filing allows Brown to collect up to $25,900 from individual donors for his potential Democratic gubernatorial bid, up from the $6,500 individuals can give him now as an officeholder. That limit hasn't hurt him so far. In July he reported having nearly $7.4 million in the bank, compared with just $1.2 million for his only other Democratic rival so far, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Brown has repeatedly hinted at seeking the office he held from 1975 to 1983, but has so far remained coy.
"If he chooses to run, this will make his campaign more able to compete and against a deep-pocketed Republican opponent," said Steve Glazer, a senior adviser to Brown.
The wealthy potential GOP challengers include Whitman, a billionaire, and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a multimillionaire who also made his fortune in Silicon Valley. Former five-term Rep. Tom Campbell also is seeking the Republican nomination.
Whitman, in seeking to explain her spotty voting and registration record Tuesday, said it was frustrating experiences with government she dealt with as chief executive of the online auction site eBay that inspired her to get involved in politics.
"When I came to eBay, what I saw was the incredible difficulties that government created for small business ... inspired individuals who created business who got slapped down by taxation, by bureaucracy and regulation," she said.
Whitman led eBay from 1998 to 2008.
Whitman had repeatedly said at the weekend convention that she should have voted more often, but declined to answer questions then about her record, instead repeating a previously released apology in which she said there were no excuses for her failure to vote.
Poizner has said Whitman should drop out of the race because Californians won't elect someone who didn't vote for most of her adult life. His spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said Tuesday's explanation is still unsufficient.
"Too busy to make a single vote for 28 straight years? No one is buying that," Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen said.