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In California, Meg Whitman leans less overtly on Pete Wilson

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Nick Ut/AP

(Read caption) Meg Whitman, GOP nominee for California governor, speaks to workers at the Allfast Fastenting Systems plant Aug. 26, in the City of Industry, California.

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Attention inside Washington Monday has focused on Glenn Beck’s rally over the weekend, but outside the Beltway contests are heating up as well, particularly in many of the country’s 37 gubernatorial races.

In California, Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, is slowly distancing herself from former governor Pete Wilson as she tries to appeal to independent and Latino voters. The former eBay CEO has relied heavily on Mr. Wilson in her campaign so far – as did current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) – and used his standing among conservatives to bring in votes on the June 8 primary.

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But now that she’s trying to appeal to a broader segment of the electorate, Ms. Whitman is giving less visibility to the former governor, who’s variously lionized or villified for championing Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative to deny illegal immigrants access to schools, health care, and other social services that was eventually declared unconstitutional.

Wilson, Whitman’s campaign chairman, called Whitman “tough as nails” on immigration in a pre-primary radio ad, and helped give her campaign early credibility. “Pete Wilson is radioactive to a lot of California voters, but to a lot of Republicans, he’s Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, told The Sacramento Bee.

In Michigan, meanwhile, Republican gubneratorial candidate Rick Snyder made a similar pitch to the middle in his address to the Republican state convention. Mr. Snyder, a heavy favorite to take the state back for Republicans this fall in his race against Democratic candidate and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (current Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is prohibited from seeking a third term) appealed for party unity.

He vowed to protect Michigan’s natural resources and invest in the “restoration” of its cities, and left out any talk of abortion, gun rights, or no-new-tax pledges.

Despite Snyder's efforts, however, the convention eventually dissolved into rancor between "tea party" activists and party regulars. Some of the anger apparently stemmed from the activists’ difficulty getting credentials.

And perhaps the award for most ambitious 2010 candidate goes to Green Party Arkansan Bobby Tullis, who is on the ballot for not one but two offices in November. The candidate for state treasurer is also running for mayor of Mineral Springs, Ark. Mr. Tullis has said he believes he can hold both offices, though not collect both salaries (he’d take the treasurer’s $54,305-per-year salary over the $7,800 pay for the mayor’s job), but others have said the state constitution prohibits it.