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Republican Millionaire Rick Caruso Backs Democrat Jerry Brown for CA Governor

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Millionaire mall developer Rick Caruso, a longtime Republican fundraiser and pal of Arnold Schwarzenegger, said in an interview with the Huffington Post on Tuesday that he is backing Jerry Brown for governor.

Caruso -- who raised money for both Bushes -- said he believes Brown is the most qualified candidate to navigate California's political labyrinth during these troubled times.

"I want to make it clear that this is not a reaction by any stretch of the imagination to my buddy Arnold," Caruso said. "I think Arnold has done a great job, given the circumstances."

"Some of my other Republican friends might question this once the word gets. But I think they'll understand that because Sacramento is so screwed up, you need someone who knows the system. Jerry Brown has been on the ground and in the weeds."

Caruso added that he will hold a fundraiser for Brown at his Brentwood home on Feb. 2. He said he hopes it will raise tens of thousands of dollars from both Republicans and Democrats.

"It should be an exciting evening," Caruso said.

Caruso's stunning decision is a blow to the ambitions of ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman.

As a business executive, she would normally have been able to count on Caruso's fundraising skills, which are formidable among Los Angeles Republicans.

Caruso said he first met Brown through his friend -- former-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton -- while Brown was running for state attorney general. He reviewed Brown's record as mayor of Oakland and decided that this is a "new Jerry," concerned about the economy and jobs.

Although Caruso said he met with the leading Republican candidates for governor, he was most impressed with Brown because of his longtime work in state government.

Caruso's announcement comes at a particularly inconvenient time for Whitman because polls have shown her pulling closer to Brown, which in a normal year would buoy her fundraising.
This is bound to take some of the air out of that balloon.