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Brown, Whitman Challenged To Drop Negative Ads

Susan Shimotsu |
October 26, 2010 | 3:29 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The afternoon session of The Women’s Conference concluded in a big way Tuesday as NBC's “Today” anchor Matt Lauer asked gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to take down negative political ads of each other.

In the first public appearance with Brown, Whitman and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger along side each other, Lauer asked both candidates to make a pledge to end their campaigns’ negativity.

“Will you make a pledge to pull your negative ads, stop the negativity?” asked Lauer.

Neither candidate would give a clear answer, as Brown eventually said he would remove his only if Whitman took down hers, while she stressed a difference between a personal attack and an attack on an issue.

“I think it’s important [to run issue attack ads] because I’m new to politics,” said Whitman, the GOP nominee. “People need to know where I stand.”

“Negativity is in the eye of the beholder,” Democratic nominee Brown said.

Brown also tried to avoid setting anything in stone by pointing out a hasty decision would not be fair because there were 14,000 people in the room trying to convince them with jeers to get rid of the negativity and cheers for an infusion of positivity.

Later Tuesday, Brown's campaign reiterated his position in a press release in which Brown said, “I pledge to pull my negative ads off the air immediately and only run positive ads through Election Day if Meg Whitman agrees to do the same.”

Whitman's campaign replied with a press release of their own.

"Brown can keep trying to fool the public that he's 'the nice guy' but in reality he's a cynical career politician running a cynical and negative campaign," spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said. "The Brown campaign should pull its misleading character attacks on Meg Whitman and instead use its advertising to conduct an honest debate on the issues, something that has been missing from the Brown campaign for months."

Prior to Lauer’s proposition, he spoke with the candidates and the governor, trying to get their thoughts on special interests and bipartisanship.

“You have to be in the center to bring both parties together to get things done,” said Schwarzenegger, who pointed to pension and budget reform as two issues that would not have been resolved without bipartisanship.

He blamed Washington’s lack of accomplishments on everyone either being too far right or too far left.

Whitman and Brown agreed they could not let party politics get in the way of progress.

“The day after the election we have stop being Republicans and Democrats and become Californians,” said Whitman.

Brown said he liked going to different kinds of people for advice and liked the conflict and contradictions that come with an administration filled with more than one ideology.

When Lauer asked about special interests, Schwarzenegger said he kept his promise that he would push back if they tried to push him, adding he has the scars on his back to prove it.

Brown said the best way to deal with special interest lobbyists is to take a step back and look at everything with clear eyes. Whitman added that she would have to rely on her own expertise.

Schwarzenegger ended the discussion with an optimistic outlook on the future, stressing the importance of laying a foundation for later administrations to build upon. While he would not endorse either candidate, he said he continue run the state and finish his term strong.

“The bottom line is when I look at other states and look at their candidates, I think we have the best candidates,” said Schwarzenegger. “[California] is the best state in the United States, which is the best country in the world.”

Brown's campaign uploaded a video of the pair's exchange with Lauer:

To reach reporter Susan Shimotsu, click here.

Follow her on Twitter: @susanfromtx.



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