(CNN) – A former GOP official in California is dropping his endorsement of State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and will instead support his rival, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary.
Bob Naylor, a former Minority Leader in the California State Assembly and a onetime chairman of the California Republican Party, said Tuesday that Whitman has a better chance of appealing to moderates and Democrats in the 2010 general election - if she can survive the Republican primary gauntlet.
"The party has to be able to attract more independents and minorities and women than we did in the last two election cycles," said Naylor, an attorney who served as state party chairman from 1987 to 1989. "I have to come to believe that she can attract more votes and independents and Democrats than Mr. Poizner. I think her story is more compelling than his."
Naylor told CNN he wrote Poizner a letter informing him of his decision three weeks ago, but never heard back.
Although he said Whitman "has a great story to tell" about her experience creating jobs at eBay, he acknowledged that she may have difficult time surviving the three-way Republican primary, which will pit her against both Poizner and former congressman Tom Campbell. "It's a difficult vetting process for anyone with moderate tendencies," he said.
Naylor said he was disappointed by revelations that Whitman failed to vote over several decades in the five states where she has lived since 1979, but he said it should not disqualify her from running.
"As a person who has been a political activist, it's a little hard for me to relate to that," he said. "I think that she has fully fessed up. She has essentially apologized for it."
Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen responded by saying Whitman still needs to answer for her voting record.
"Let me do some simple math here, Steve Poizner has eight times more former GOP chairs endorsing his campaign than the Whitman campaign has," Agen said. "This is a thinly veiled attempt to shift focus away from the fact that Meg Whitman did not vote for 28 years and will not answer direct questions as to why not."