How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

The "Gavinator" and Meg Whitman's big money

July 6, 2009: 2:17 PM ET

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine cover story, "The Gavinator?!?!"--about San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the field of colorful candidates vying to succeed California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger--was breezily entertaining. So breezy that it skipped a few important points.

And having written a Fortune cover story, "Can Meg Whitman Save California?" about one of those  gubernatorial rivals, I can't resist weighing in...

First, on the money. It's strange that yesterday's New York Times story didn't mention news that came out last week: Whitman, the former CEO of eBay (EBAY), has raised more than $6.5 million in five months since declaring her candidacy last February. That's more than Newsom ($2.8 million) and way more than Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell, her competitors for the Republican nomination. Some 85% of her money has come from California--and she has big-name supporters there, including Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers, Yahoo (YHOO) chief Carol Bartz, and Marc Andreessen, the uber-entreprenuer who happens to be the subject of a cover profile in the new issue of Fortune, released today.

Mitt Romney and John McCain have endorsed Whitman too. And though I have no desire to promote Whitman, I can't resist mentioning that she is the anti-Sarah Palin. She's not a quitter--which will be key in a race that is already intense and still more than a year away from the finish line. I've known Whitman for a decade, and I've learned that she's focused. She's grounded. She's pragmatic. You might say that spending $50 million of your own money to compete for governor of America's sickest state--as she suggested to me that she's willing to do--is hardly pragmatic. (Indeed, business celebrities who have tried to buy their way to the California statehouse have blown up in the past. Remeber Al Checchi, Bill Simon, Michael Huffington...?) But after character, money counts here. Whitman has already contributed $4 million of her own money.

Meg Whitman 2009 cover

I also have to weigh in on the "rent-a-horse issue," as we at Fortune have come to call it. The New York Times Magazine story yesterday mentioned--repeating a charge we've heard before--that our cover last March showed Whitman "holding the reins of Brandy, a regal-looking horse, although an editor at Fortune later admitted that Brandy was a rental horse and did not belong to Whitman."

The facts, folks: Brandy belongs to a Whitman supporter in Half Moon Bay, California, near where the photo was taken. Whitman has horses of her own--nine horses, in fact--which she keeps near her family vacation home in Colorado. She's a lifelong outdoors-woman and accomplished rider who transplanted West--which is why we proposed this cover shot. While we could have transported one of Whitman's horses from Colorado, why put a horse through that?

It turned out, on that Saturday last February when we did the ocean-side shoot, Brandy was a very frisky animal. Whitman tamed her. Here's one more picture that didn't make it into the magazine...

Meg rides Brandy

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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