THE CALIFORNIA political press corps' fury over GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's repeated snubs is entirely justified.

Seriously, Whitman isn't on a book tour. She wants to be governor of the state of California. Voters deserve to know how she handles pressure.

"Dealing with questions from reporters is like busting broncs," former California GOP communications guru Patrick Dorinson said. "You know you're going to get knocked down, but you've got to keep getting back up."

Granted, reporters are demanding. We whine. We always want more time, more answers, more of everything.

But instead of in-depth interviews and lively exchanges with reporters on the issues of the day, Whitman has expected journalists to stand in the back of the room as though we are movie extras at one of her staged town hall meetings.

She batted away reporters twice in February in the East Bay, first in Lafayette at the Commonwealth Club and again in Orinda.

OK, she doled out a few select interviews in Lafayette, including a whopping five minutes with The Associated Press.

The rest of us were told to stand in the back and keep quiet. (Yes, I whined about how I was a middle-aged woman with a bunion and an organizer found me a chair after lecturing me about the poor stamina of today's journalists.)


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A week later in Orinda, Whitman gave San Jose Mercury News political reporter Ken McLaughlin nearly three-quarters of a whole hour. Whoopee.

Whitman's most egregious affront to the Fourth Estate erupted into a YouTube firestorm last week after she refused to the answer the questions of reporters she had invited to her tour of Union Pacific's intermodal facility in Oakland.

Whitman called reporters afterward, apologized for the mix-up and promised interviews "real soon."

To be fair, she delivered. She sat down Friday night and spent an hour with reporters at the state Republican Party convention in Santa Clara, where she admitted the Oakland incident was a mistake.

Look, I'm not taking this personally. I've been dissed by some of the most famous politicians in America.

Former President Bill Clinton's handlers corralled me behind velvet ropes for hours at a Rep. John Garamendi fundraiser, and told me I couldn't leave my designated area to use the restroom.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney's people put reporters behind actual cattle fencing at a Stockton fundraiser for then-Rep. Richard Pombo.

And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's stage managers ordered me out of a chair in which the local organizers had invited me to sit, told me to stand behind the ropes and then tried — unsuccessfully, I might add — to move me further back to make room for a late arriving TV crew.

Yeah, I can hear it now, "Do you want some cheese to go with that whine?"

But there is a huge difference between the aforementioned high-profile trio and Whitman: She hasn't been elected to anything yet.

Whitman's high-priced consultant army prematurely adopted a Washington, D.C., bunker mentality, seeking to control every aspect of her campaign with choreographed events. She is also accustomed to proprietary business environment.

Without question, the billionaire ex-eBay CEO is 30 points ahead of GOP primary competitor Steve Poizner. She has more than enough money to pay for her own publicity.

But her mea culpa Friday is welcome news. Let's hope she keeps it up.

Come Election Day, voters will be rightfully dissatisfied if all they have had is a restricted diet of Whitman talking points and 30-minute television infomercials.

ICKY: Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan sent out a campaign fundraising letter to companies that have contracts with her office that reads:

"As a substantial vendor of goods and/or services to the Alameda County Office of Education, you may be interested in knowing that the office of superintendent of schools is an elective office and that elections will take place this coming June 8.

"If your firm's community relations policy permits you to do so, you may wish to participate in my upcoming re-election campaign kickoff event "...

"It costs money to run a campaign, even for a nonpartisan office such as Superintendent of Schools. If you wish to contribute, you can write a check at the door "..."

Amazing, said Bob Stern, one of the authors of the California Political Reform Act and president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.

"I have never seen this in writing," Stern said. "This solicitation is Exhibit One for enacting such a ban covering all elected officials. This should be illegal; it certainly is unethical."

Jordan defends her action as an economic necessity. Businesses with government relationships routinely donate to candidates, she said.

"It costs $15,000 just to put your name on the ballot and file a ballot statement," Jordan said. "I would like to ask Mr. Stern if he has any other options when we don't have public campaign financing."

GOT POLITICS? Read the Political Blotter at www.ibabuzz.com/politics:

  • The National Journal rates Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, the most moderate Democratic member of California's congressional delegation.

    IS IT SOMETHING WE SAID? Four veteran Contra Costa County elected department heads will retire at the end of the year after decades of service — Sheriff Warren Rupf, District Attorney Bob Kochly, Treasurer-Tax Collector Bill Pollacek and Auditor-Recorder Steve Ybarra.

    Each man has endorsed his replacement, though voters will make the final choice in either June or November.

    Some folks are glad to see the old guard leave. Others will miss their institutional knowledge. But it is undeniably an end of an era.

    Meanwhile, some smart caterer out there is working up a group discount on retirement party platters.

    Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com or www.ibabuzz.com/politics.