Whitman, Brown square off in Davis debate

California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman
September 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tuesday night, California voters got their first head-to-head comparison of the two candidates running for governor. Democratic candidate Jerry Brown and Republican candidate Meg Whitman knew there was a lot on the line in their first televised debate of the campaign.

In the highly anticipated debate, the candidates stayed very close to their carefully-scripted messages.

Outside the hall there was a not so carefully controlled crowd of Brown supporters who got into a shouting match with Whitman backers. There was a little shoving, but nothing that drew the police. Inside the hall 700 seats were left empty because the candidates wanted to keep the audience a bit smaller and controlled.

The first question of the night was on how to fix the state budget impasse, and their answers forecast how the rest of the night would go. Whitman sidestepped the question in favor of outlining her tax cuts.

"We need to eliminate the factory tax so we can hang on to manufacturing jobs. I want to streamline red tape so it's not so hard to do business in California," said Whitman.

Brown said he would get everyone in the Legislature together.

"You start the week after the election, that's what I'll do. I'll bring all 120 together. I don't care if takes 200 hours, 500 hours," said Brown.

Both candidates covered well-worn ground and that's the way much of the debate went.

"My view is he will bring people together after he's elected governor and it'll be a meeting of all the special interests and unions who are there to collect their IOUs from the campaign that they had funded," said Whitman.

"I won't try to respond to that TV commercial, which I've seen so much of ad nauseam, but I will tell you this, one of the target tax cuts is targeted to billionaires like Ms. Whitman and millionaires," said Brown.

On job creation Brown said the state's job future is green.

"You can put people to work by retrofitting the inefficient buildings in California by the hundreds of thousands," said Brown.

Whitman repeated her tax cuts and streamlining regulations.

"The truth is we are not competitive to neighboring states. Thirty or 40 years ago maybe we didn't have so much competition, but we do now," said Whitman.

Both would protect the state's colleges and universities from higher fees, and both would enforce the death penalty. Brown favors a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, and Whitman does not, but she does support a guest worker program.

One of the very few unscripted moments of the night came when Brown was asked about his penchant for running for president. The question was asked, "What assurances can you offer that this time around should you be elected you world focus on this job?"

"Age. Hell, if I was younger, you know I'd be running again," said Brown and he added this time around he's married. "I'd come home at night. I don't try to close down the bars in Sacramento like I used to do when I was governor of California."

By contrast Whitman never wavered from her message.

"Putting Jerry Brown in charge of negotiating with the labor unions, around pensions, around how many people we have in the state government, is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank," said Whitman.

After the debate Whitman told reporters she thought the debate went well. Brown bypassed the spin room and went outside to shake hands with members of the audience.

The debate was kind of a condensed version of the campaign we have seen so far, and Whitman did tell reporters she thinks there is much more that could be covered.

The next debate is this Saturday in Fresno.


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