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Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's ground operation has merged with that of the state Republican Party's and will be focusing not just on the governor's race this fall but also on targeted legislative races, said Whitman strategist Jeff Randle this morning in a conference call with reporters.

That joint effort was already tested in the special election to fill the 15th state Senate seat vacated by Abel Maldonado, Randle said, when Whitman herself and her aides worked in the district to coordinate the ground plan. The result, he said, was 60 volunteers walking precincts and 275,000 phone calls to support the eventual victor, Republican Sam Blakeslee.

"We have fully integrated our group operation, meaning the Whitman campaign from the primary into the Republican party victory operation to ensure we are helping all Republican candidates," Randle said. "So it's now one big victory operation to help everybody."

Party-run consolidated campaign ground operations are nothing new in California, but Randle said this effort is "really the most team-oriented integrated victory operation I have ever seen or ever run in my 22 years in politics."

UPDATE: Ho hum, responded California Democratic Party spokesman Tenoch Flores to Randle's statements about the Whitman/state GOP ground game.

"It may be novel for the Republicans, but Democrats consider statewide coordination a given," Flores said. "That's why it's called a coordinated campaign."

Flores added, "We're going to be concentrating on turning out core Democrats. This is something we're taking very seriously, from door-knocking to phone-banking to online media to get the word out about the Democratic ticket and Republican ticket and what this would represent for California. We feel pretty good about our volunteer efforts."

Randle added that Whitman's field director Jessica Patterson had taken on the same role for the state GOP's victory operation and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina's political director Jeff Corless is also the victory operation's political director.

Randle said the Whitman campaign, during the primary, had assembled "the largest volunteer organization ever created by a Republican primary candidate or Democratic primary candidate for that matter," with 20,000 volunteers who made nearly a million phone calls for Whitman.

The Whitman goal for the general election will be 40,000 volunteers making 2 million phone calls, Randle said.

The campaign has also set its sights on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, who's fighting a challenge from Democrat Ami Bera, who has so raised more money than Lungren. The GOP victory operation has made 23,000 calls and knocked on 4,000 doors so far for Lungren, Randle said.

The victory operation has also made 25,000 calls and knocked on 4,000 doors for Republican David Harmer, who's running for the 11th Congressional District seat against Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerny, who is trailing in the money race so far, Randle said.

Whitman strategist Mike Murphy said the well-funded Whitman operation, which has received $104 million so far of the candidate's own wealth, was even seeking to be competitive in Democrat-heavy San Francisco and neighboring cities.

"We polled swing voters all across the place," Murphy said. "If we can close and cut down Jerry's margin over there, it'll have a devastating effect on his campaign. ... We were happily informed by the data and we made a decision to invest more resources up there, including in the city. So we're coming."



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