By Patricia Sellers
July 6, 2009

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 thoseĀ  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

, 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

CEO John Chambers, Yahoo

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.

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…

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