Poizner's 'Mount Pleasant': Books Aren't Just for Presidential Candidates

Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" drew thousands to her book-signing events, and Mitt Romney's "No Apology" will debut at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. But campaign books aren't strictly for presidential candidates--just ask Steve Poizner.

The former Silicon Valley entrepreneur is running as the conservative candidate against former eBay CEO Meg Whitman in California's Republican gubernatorial primary, and, as the campaign swings into gear for the June 8 primary vote, Poizner will publish his first book on April 1.

"Mount Pleasant" chronicles Poizner's foray out of the tech business world and into public high-school teaching: in the fall of 2002, he took on an unpaid job as an America government teacher at Mount Pleasant High School in San Jose, California, in a district with above-average dropout rates and many underprivileged students.

Poizner showed up at the administrative office, unannounced, in khakis, loafers, and a pressed shirt, ant told a district administrator that he wanted "to teach. I don't want to get paid." His goal, he says, was to help people--to apply his business leadership skills in a classroom setting, and lend some of his drive and experience to improve the lives of a handful of students.

Before that, Poizner made his money by putting GPS devices in cell phones, through his company SnapTrack.

As with Romney and Palin, the release of Poizner's book will involve cross-promotion with his political career. He'll hold signing events at bookstores in California, and the campaign will have a few copies on hand to give away at campaign events.

It's not as if the book's purpose is to advance Poizner to the governor's mansion--proceeds will go to Mount Pleasant High School--but, as is the case for any politician, a book helps. It gets Poizner's name out there; it introduces him to people. It's a platform for the candidate to tell his story, regardless of whether political ambition was its impetus.

"It would be hard to separate the book from the campaign, because it does tell a lot of Steve's personal story," campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen said. "The next few months, that's really what we're going to be focusing on, is introducing Steve to voters in California."

The campaign has no plans at present to sell copies for campaign donations, as Palin did with "Going Rogue," Agen said.

The book is autobiographical: it's a first-hand account of Poizner's experience at Mount Pleasant. It's not about education policy, though Poizner does offer his recommendations in the epilogue; it is about Poizner, the school, and the students he taught.

In the book, Poizner struggles to capture his students' attention and pursue his "agenda" in the classroom, drawing from his business experience. He writes:

Off the bat, I wanted to sell them on my curriculum and myself. So I conjured visions of being an entrepreneur again: I was pitching a concept to thirty-two kids who weren't altogether unlike venture capitalists. As was often the case with potential investors, the students had short attention spans. Winning over both audiences required crisp message delivery. I had to appear motivated, too. An audience that isn't necessarily swayed by the details of a pitch can still be captured with passion.

It's the same challenge he faces with the Republican primary voters of California.