Jerry Brown - Meg Whitman debate: Harsh words mark wild final gubernatorial showdown


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Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown tussled over taxes, pensions and how to tackle the chronically imbalanced state budget in their final scheduled debate.

The third debate between the two candidates was a freewheeling discussion full of personal attacks, with moderator Tom Brokaw trying to rein in the candidates and an audience that frequently burst in with applause. Perhaps the sharpest exchanges came over a recent recording of someone on Brown’s campaign calling Whitman a “whore” during an endorsement phone call.


The two candidates repeated their campaign themes in the hour-long debate at Dominican University of California in San Rafael.

“It will be the same old same old,” Whitman said of a potential Brown governorship.

Brown cast Whitman as a candidate for the wealthy, challenging her at one point to detail how she would personally benefit from her plan to slash the state’s capital gains tax.

“How much money will you save?” Brown asked pointedly.

But the sparks were brightest in a question Brokaw asked Brown, about the recording on which someone on his campaign called Whitman a “whore” for her attempts to garner a union endorsement.

Brown began by dismissing the recording, calling it a “5-week-old private conversation” before eventually offering a half-hearted apology to Whitman for the “garbled transmission.”

She didn’t accept it. “It’s not just me but the people of California who deserve better than slurs,” Whitman said.

The remark, she said, was “not befitting of the office you are running for.”

The two also tangled over the recent revelations that Whitman’s former maid of nine years is an illegal immigrant.


Brown said Whitman’s firing of Nicandra Diaz Santillan was ‘kind of a sorry tale,’ noting that ‘after nine years, she didn’t even get her a lawyer.’

Whitman called for an ‘e-verify system’ to make sure the documents presented by immigrants are valid.

The candidates also sparred over and over regarding the role of unions in the state. Whitman said it would be a “fairy tale” to believe Brown could confront them after they’ve spent so much on his campaign. Brown said his long record shows an ability to negotiate with anyone and everyone.

“I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve taken the heat,” he said, accusing Whitman of being in the bleachers.

The Tuesday showdown was the final debate of the gubernatorial campaign, but not the last time Whitman and Brown are scheduled to share a stage before the Nov. 2 election. They are set to appear together, along with the man they seek to replace, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Women’s Conference in Long Beach on Oct. 26, in a conversation moderated by NBC’s Matt Lauer.

Debate moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC, who arrived on stage on crutches before the television broadcast began, had one of the best lines of the evening, though TV viewers missed it.


‘It’s kind of a metaphor for California. We’re both broken for the moment,’ he said of his hobbled state, before adding: ‘The difference is, I hope to be repaired by the first of the year.’

-- Shane Goldmacher and Anthony York in San Rafael, Calif.


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