Whitman targets Bay Area voters with ad attacking Brown

Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has begun airing a fifth attack ad against Democratic rival Jerry Brown, this one a Bay Area-focused effort that criticizes his tenure while mayor of Oakland.

The ad, which was first televised Monday, is part of a push by the Whitman campaign into the Democratic stronghold and home turf for Brown, Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007. The move is unusual for a Republican candidate but reflects Whitman’s immense financial advantage over the Democrat.

The 30-second ad restates criticisms Whitman has launched about Brown’s tenure as mayor — that he oversaw failure in the city’s schools, mismanagement in the city’s administration and an increasing murder rate. “He just can’t deliver the results California needs now,” the announcer concludes.

“Bay Area voters are familiar with the promises Jerry Brown made when he ran for mayor, but many aren’t familiar with the results of his tenure,” said Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Whitman.

Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said that all three of the allegations in the ads are wrong: Brown never had enough control of the city’s school district to affect school operations; the claim that employees were paid for hours they never worked came from an unproven allegation in a lawsuit; and the murder rate over Brown’s tenure was substantially lower than in the preceding eight years.

“Whitman repeats the same falsehoods and distortions she and her special interest allies have been pushing all summer,” Clifford said.

Whitman’s pitch to Bay Area voters demonstrates anew her ability to deviate from the traditional Republican playbook, as she previously has in efforts to woo Democratic-leaning voters, including Latinos and nurses.

Her campaign has already built a ground operation in the area and opened an office in Oakland. In a conference call last week, Whitman strategists said they planned a “big offensive” there, including television and radio ads and mailers. They used their resources to help GOP Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee win a state Senate election in the area last month in a district Barack Obama won by 20 points in 2008.

“We thought that was a good early test of the strength of our organization,” said Whitman strategist Jeff Randle.

Some political analysts said that although Whitman will never win San Francisco or Oakland, her chances of election statewide go up if she can pull into her column moderate Democrats and independents who live in the Bay Area media market, particularly in its suburbs.

But Tony Quinn, a Republican commentator and co-editor of the California Target Book, was skeptical about Whitman’s focus on Oakland resonating with voters.

“Oakland had a history of problems that had nothing to do with Jerry Brown and continued long after him. Oakland has been a basket case for…at least 50 years,” Quinn said. “He’s running for governor again, he was governor once. I think that’s the issue, what kind of governor was he?”