Candidates for governor, Senate hopscotch the state

Candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate hopscotched around the state Friday, rallying their parties’ supporters and urging them to vote as election day draws near.

In the governor’s race, Republican Meg Whitman swept through the Central Valley seeking to motivate the region’s rich trove of Republican voters -- and getting inadvertent help from former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat.

Davis had told the Sacramento Bee on Thursday that the next governor would be forced to ask voters to renew temporary tax hikes they approved last year to help balance the budget. Whitman used his comments to bolster her contention that her Democratic rival, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, a former governor himself, would raise taxes.

“Mark my words, if Jerry Brown is the next governor, he has no other solution to this budget crisis than raising your taxes,” Whitman told scores of supporters at a peach-processing plant in Fresno, one of three stops she made Friday.


Davis never named Brown in his comments; he said only that declining revenues would mean extending the tax increases, which requires voter approval. Brown has not proposed raising taxes and has said he would not do so without voters’ OK. On Friday, he reiterated that pledge.

“I’ve been very clear. I’ve said no taxes unless the people want them and vote for them,” Brown told The Times as he prepared to speak, in his capacity as attorney general, at a ceremony in Irvine for the widows and children of police officers killed in the line of duty.

Friday also featured the emergence of another former governor: Republican Pete Wilson, Whitman’s campaign co-chairman. After months of silence, he touted her candidacy on conservative talk radio.

Wilson was a prominent force during the GOP primary campaign. As Whitman was being pressed on illegal immigration by the party’s conservative base, he cut a radio ad promising that she would be “tough as nails” on the issue.


Wilson was the most visible supporter of Proposition 187 in 1994, when voters passed the controversial measure intended to end most taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants (it was largely invalidated by the courts later). His role in that campaign made him a hero to conservative Republicans but a pariah to many Latinos, whom Whitman has spent millions courting.

Political observers said Wilson’s reappearance shows that Whitman is trying to rally the GOP base and that her efforts to win Latinos have not been as successful as she had hoped.

“This is a concession that Meg Whitman won’t make any further inroads with Latino voters than Republicans have in the past,” said Thad Kousser, a political scientist at UC San Diego.

Earlier Friday, Whitman had visited Porto’s Bakery and Cafe in Glendale, where she received a mixed reaction from the more than 100 people crowded inside. Some yelled “Go home!” as she worked her way through the throng, trying to speak with customers.


Her voice was drowned out by the boisterous protesters, who included members of the California Nurses Assn., an almost constant presence at her campaign events.

“They know if I’m governor their hand is going to be weakened,” Whitman told reporters.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Carly Fiorina toured a medical equipment company in Goleta, accusing incumbent Barbara Boxer of supporting government policies that hurt small businesses.

Boxer, meanwhile, welcomed the support of fellow Democrat and longtime ally Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who joined her on the campaign trail.


At a Cal State Northridge rally, Boxer denounced Fiorina’s actions as the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, explaining to the crowd that the Republican shipped jobs abroad before she was fired in 2005, collecting tens of millions of dollars in severance.

“She says she wants to do to America what she did to HP, and that’s just what we’re afraid of,” Boxer said. “Because to her, HP stood for ‘huge payout.’”

Fiorina fired back, saying every dollar of her HP pay was voted on by shareholders and faulting Boxer for supporting hefty pay increases for herself in Washington.

“But her pay or my pay actually are not the subject of this election,” Fiorina said. “The subject of this election is that too many Californians don’t have paychecks, too many Californians are out of work. Too many Californians have too much money being taken out of their paychecks and sent to Washington, D.C., to be wasted.”


At the Cal State rally, Feinstein rebuffed the repeated message from Fiorina and outside groups that Boxer has overstayed her welcome in Washington after 28 years.

“Experience does matter,” Feinstein said, recalling their arrival in the Senate 18 years ago, when they were “backbenchers” relegated to the committee seats reserved for the most junior senators.

“She has worked her way up in seniority to where she’s got a voice for California.”

As chair of the Environment and Public Works committee, Feinstein noted, Boxer has jurisdiction over highways, climate change legislation and water issues.


Both senators blasted Fiorina’s openness to new oil drilling off California, noting that they have written legislation that would ban it permanently along the West Coast.

During her stop in Goleta, Fiorina said she would leave drilling up to the people of California.

“I disagree strenuously with Barbara Boxer, who believes that decision should be made permanently in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “I think we should leave as many decisions as possible in the hands of the people who understand the problem and who are prepared to live with the consequences.”


Times staff writers Stephen Ceasar in Glendale, Kate Linthicum in Goleta, Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento and Phil Willon in Irvine contributed to this report.