Brown, Whitman Poke Each Other's Differences In First Calif. Gubernatorial Debate
The hour-long debate held at U.C. Davis marked the first face-to-face meeting between Brown and Whitman during the campaign season. The race remains very close, though a poll released over the weekend by the L.A. Times and USC found Brown had pulled ahead of Whitman 49-44.
Brown frequently used hand gestures to punctuate his points as he rotated his body to speak to various parts of the audience.
As separate protests—one denouncing Whitman and the other blasting Brown—took place outside the debate, Whitman stared directly into the camera while speaking in front of a blue curtain.
The candidates defended their ads and the way their campaigns have been financed. Brown said he would uphold the death penalty and tried to point out Whitman's opposition to Proposition 23, which would delay the enactment of stringent global warming regulation.
Both candidates mentioned their independence and wisdom, though Brown's has come from years of public service and Whitman's has come from experience working in the private sector.
The 72-year-old Brown has been a mayor of Oakland and California's governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Whitman, 54, has said her time as CEO of eBay provided her with the knowledge necessary to fix the state's fiscal crisis.
California is facing a $19.1 billion budget deficit, and the state has withered a record 90 days without a spending plan. Budget discussions between state legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were abruptly canceled Tuesday because of disagreement about how to reform the pension system for state employees. Almost nine in 10 likely voters in the LAT/USC poll said they thought the state was headed in the wrong direction.
The mounting anger with California's government offered each candidate a chance to lay out their vision for redefining the state's future.
Whitman's plan involves decreasing taxes and regulation on businesses.
“We have to make the state more business-friendly,” Whitman said. “We have to put up a sign that says 'Open For Business'.”
Brown's future for California centers around increasing the availability of jobs that lead to positive environmental effects.
“Green jobs is the part of the economy that's growing,” Brown said. “We can put hundreds of thousands people to work retrofitting the buildings of California.”
Brown reaffirmed his opposition to the death penalty during the debate, though he said he will always remain loyal to California law, which allows for it. On Monday, Brown delayed the execution of a death row inmate because of a shortage of the necessary lethal drug.
“I don't want to play politics with the death penalty,” Brown said. “I have consistently said I will carry out the death penalty if that's what the law says.”
Brown said he would love to roll back fee hikes at University of California schools and prevent future increases, but he said that would require money the state doesn't have right now.
“One way or another, we are going to protect the U.C.'s,” he said.
Whitman said she would reform spending on welfare and reinvest savings in the U.C. System. She said she would leave up to the U.C. chancellors to decide how to use the money.
Brown drew laughs from the crowd when he noted that if he was elected governor this year and again in 2014 for a second term, he wouldn't collect his pension for another eight years.
“I'm the best pension buy California's ever seen,” he said with a smirk.
Later, Brown again joked about his age, saying his wife and his age would combine to make him a dedicated governor.
Both candidates defended their most popular attack ad. Whitman said she stood behind an ad featuring Bill Clinton talking on CNN about Brown's poor record as governor of California. Brown said everything in his ad featuring Whitman as the character Pinocchio is true.
Whitman has spent nearly $120 million of her own money to keep her ads running on radio, television, the Internet and billboards all summer long. Brown began running ads at the beginning of September, though labor groups produced ads on his behalf throughout the summer.
Whitman says because she's financed most of her own campaign, she doesn't need to cater to special interests like Brown will have to if he is elected.
“We are going to up-end the status quo,” Whitman said, listing the various programs she would reform. “We have to fundamentally change how this state runs.”
Billionaires wouldn't benefit under his governorship, Brown said.
"We should be creating those new green jobs," Brown said, ending the debate with a pump of a fist.
One in five likely California voters remain undecided about who they'll vote for in the governor's race. Two televised debates remain before the election: Saturday in Fresno and Oct. 12 in Marin County.
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