Brown and Whitman go head to head

In their first de­bate, the can­di­dates for gover­nor paint each other as a tool of unions or the wealthy.

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - Cath­leen Decker

In a blus­tery and vig­or­ous first de­bate, gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown du­eled Tues­day over their dif­fer­ing so­lu­tions to Cal­i­for­nia’s dire prob­lems, with Whitman slight­ing Brown as a tool of la­bor unions and Brown ex­co­ri­at­ing her as a bil­lion­aire run­ning for of­fice to ben­e­fit the rich.

From start to fin­ish, the one-hour de­bate was a dis­til­la­tion of the months of the gen­eral elec­tion race, its tone set by an early ques­tion about how each would grap­ple with the state’s $19-bil­lion bud­get deficit. Af­ter Demo­crat Brown said he would bring all par­ties to­gether, Repub­li­can Whitman seized on his vow.

“Mr. Brown talked about bring­ing peo­ple to­gether,” she said. “It will be a meet­ing of all the spe­cial in­ter­ests and the unions who are there to col­lect their IOUs from the cam­paign that they have funded.”

Brown, the at­tor­ney gen­eral, re­sponded with a jab at Whitman’s pro­posed erad­i­ca­tion of the cap­i­tal gains tax, a move he said was “tar­geted to bil­lion­aires like Ms. Whitman and mil­lion­aires.”

“It’s a $5-bil­lion tax break that will go to the rich­est peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia,” he said, a char­ac­ter­i­za­tion he would re­peat again and again. “Eighty-two per­cent goes to those mak­ing over $500,000. And where will that money come from? Our schools. That’s not fair, that’s not right, and it re­flects the dif­fer­ence in our val­ues.”

Whitman, the for­mer head of EBay who has put a record $119 mil­lion of her own money into the race, re­peat­edly cast her­self as a gover­nor who would be in­debted to no one — in con­trast, she said, to Brown.

“If you want some­one who will just go along and

not fun­da­men­tally change what is wrong in Sacra­mento, I’m not your can­di­date,” she said.

Brown used his ex­pe­ri­ence as a sales pitch, re­peat­edly fo­cus­ing on an un­der­stand­ing of state govern­ment honed by decades spent in of­fice, in­clud­ing as sec­re­tary of state, gover­nor, mayor of Oak­land and, now, at­tor­ney gen­eral.

“I’ve got the know-how, I’ve got the ex­pe­ri­ence, and at this point in my life I’ve got more in­sight and I be­lieve more in­de­pen­dence,” the 72-year-old said.

The two can­di­dates have fought a tight race since the June pri­mary, and the ten­sion oc­ca­sion­ally showed dur­ing the de­bate.

Whitman, at 54 mak­ing her first bid for of­fice and tak­ing part Tues­day in her high­est-pro­file can­di­date event, ap­peared ten­ta­tive at times and re­lied on triedand-true cam­paign lines ut­tered at most of her events. Brown was al­most the other ex­treme, toss­ing off salty re­marks with the blunt­ness that char­ac­ter­ized his first gov­er­nor­ship, which be­gan 36 years ago.

At one point Brown was re­minded that his first ten­ure as gover­nor was punc­tu­ated by un­suc­cess­ful bids for the pres­i­dency. He was asked whether, were he to be elected in Novem­ber, he would fo­cus on Cal­i­for­nia rather than pres­i­den­tial pur­suits.

“Hell, if I was younger, you’d know I’d be run­ning again. At 74 or what­ever it’s go­ing to be in a cou­ple years, I’m ready,” he said, as guf­faws broke out in the de­bate hall. Then he con­trasted his bach­e­lor years with the present.

“I now have a wife,” he said. “I 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. So I’m go­ing to spend more time in Sacra­mento and I’m go­ing to get it done. Don’t worry about that. I’m in for the du­ra­tion here.”

Ear­lier, dur­ing a dis­cus­sion of run­away state pen­sion costs, he used his longevity as a punch line.

“Let’s get some­thing real clear. If ev­ery­body in state ser­vice worked as long as I have, the pen­sion sys­tem would be over­funded by 50%,” he said. “By the way, if you elect me gover­nor, I won’t col­lect till I’m 76.… If I get a sec­ond term, it will be 80. So I’m the best pen­sion buy Cal­i­for­nia has ever seen, OK?”

The state’s dom­i­nant is­sues — jobs, eco­nomic ruin, the per­sis­tent bud­get deficit — were the sub­ject of many of the ques­tions posed by pan­elists at the de­bate, held at UC Davis and spon­sored by Cap­i­tal Pub­lic Ra­dio, KCRA-TV (NBC) Sacra­mento, the Sacra­mento Bee and UC Davis. It was the first of three sched­uled gu­ber­na­to­rial de­bates; the next will oc­cur Satur­day in Fresno.

Whitman re­peated her cam­paign pledges to stream­line state govern­ment and ease re­stric­tions on busi­nesses ei­ther seek­ing to set up in the state or al­ready ex­ist­ing here; she has vowed to cre­ate 2 mil­lion jobs as gover­nor. Brown fo­cused more di­rectly on clean-en­ergy jobs; he has pledged 500,000 green jobs and re­minded Whitman and the au­di­ence that 1.9 mil­lion jobs were cre­ated in the state dur­ing his 1975-83 stint as gover­nor.

Both can­di­dates de­cried the dys­func­tion of Sacra­mento and said they would get to work ear­lier and more force­fully than the cur­rent gover­nor, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger. Both called for some mea­sure of ed­u­ca­tion re­form and pen­sion re­form, and dodged a ques­tion about rolling back uni­ver­sity fees, which have sky­rock­eted in re­cent years.

The is­sue of the death penalty, a rare point of con­tention in re­cent years be­cause of the pro-cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment una­nim­ity among politi­cians of both ma­jor par­ties, also arose in part due to court ac­tions this week in­volv­ing the po­ten­tial ex­e­cu­tion of a Cal­i­for­nia in­mate. Whitman used it to jab Brown for his stance on the death penalty and ap­point­ing anti-cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment Jus­tice Rose Bird to the state Supreme Court decades ago.

Brown, who per­son­ally op­poses cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, said he had de­fended as at­tor­ney gen­eral “hun­dreds and hun­dreds of death penalty cases.”

“I pledge to the peo­ple of this state I will faith­fully carry out our law on ex­e­cu­tions and I’ll do it with com­pas­sion and I’ll do it with great fidelity to the rule of law,” he said.

“Jerry Brown has a long, 40-year record of be­ing quite lib­eral on crime,” Whitman replied, vow­ing to has­ten cap­i­tal tri­als.

But more than just the is­sues, the de­bate fo­cused on the main ques­tion be­fore vot­ers on Nov. 2: whether the key to suc­cess for Cal­i­for­nia rests on new blood or ex­pe­ri­ence.

Whitman re­peated Al­bert Ein­stein’s def­i­ni­tion of in­san­ity: “Do­ing the same thing over and over again and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult,” im­ply­ing that a Cal­i­for­nia in the hands of a politician was doomed to more dys­func­tion. She brushed aside crit­i­cism of her cam­paign ads, which have stretched the truth at times.

“We are go­ing to up­end the sta­tus quo,” she said. “We can­not con­tinue to do things the way we his­tor­i­cally have done things.”

But Brown sought to use against her the state’s cur­rent gover­nor — like Whitman, a po­lit­i­cal out­sider who vowed to end busi­nes­sas-usual and now has rock­bot­tom ap­proval rat­ings.

“By the way, this busi­ness about in­san­ity [be­ing] re­peat­ing what we have, we have a man who I very much like, Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, but he was for the pri­vate sec­tor, he said he was be­holden to no one, he was putting his own money into the cam­paign, and he was a guy who would run the state like a busi­ness,” Brown said. “Well, it didn’t work out that way. It does take know-how.”

Hector Amezcua

JERRY BROWN: He used his ex­pe­ri­ence as a sales pitch, re­peat­edly fo­cus­ing on his decades spent in state of­fice.

Hector Amezcua

MEG WHITMAN: She told vot­ers that if they want some­one who won’t make changes, “I’m not your can­di­date.”

Hector Amezcua

Pool photo

VIG­OR­OUS DE­BATE: Demo­crat Jerry Brown and Repub­li­can Meg Whitman meet at UC Davis in the first of three face-to-face de­bates in the Cal­i­for­nia gu­ber­na­to­rial race. From start to fin­ish, the one-hour de­bate was a dis­til­la­tion of the months of the gen­eral elec­tion race, its tone set by an early ques­tion about the bud­get deficit.

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