It’s about as surprising as a negative number in a classified advertising column, but now it’s official: Meg Whitman, former CEO of EBay, is running for governor in California.

            She announced today that’s she has formed an “exploratory committee” for her campaign in the Republican primary, but the Los Angeles Times says it is “exploratory in name only” and she has hired more than two dozen political advisors, including several who have worked for current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger can’t run again due to term limits.

            Although Whitman planned to announce her run this morning, she told social-networking site BettyConfidential.com about her plans during the weekend.

            “As a first-time candidate, Whitman faces enormous risks,” the Times wrote. “She has never undergone the intense media scrutiny that accompanies any serious bid for high office. She has only begun to meet the state’s vast network of Republican Party players. And with no experience in state office, she must study quickly the panoply of issues facing the nation’s most populous state, among them a surge in unemployment, substandard public schools, traffic-clogged freeways and a dysfunctional Legislature that routinely fails to overcome budget shortfalls.”

Whitman’s 52, is married to a brain surgeon and has two sons. Her bid was widely expected; we wrote about it a month ago.

“California faces challenges unlike any other time in its history — a weak and faltering economy, massive job losses, and an exploding state budget deficit,” Whitman’s announcement said. “California is better than this, and I refuse to stand by and watch it fail.”

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