DOWNTOWN GLENDALE — Political pandemonium spilled out of Porto's Bakery on Friday morning as Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman made a last-minute campaign stop.
Shortly before Whitman was scheduled to appear at the Cuban eatery on Brand Boulevard, a neon green bus filled with protesters and "Queen Meg," the doppelganger actress hired by opponents to spoof the former EBay executive on the campaign trail and other public events, pulled up to the entrance.
Sponsored by the California Nurses Assn., "Queen Meg's Farewell Tour" members held signs and chanted into bullhorns marching back and forth in front of Porto's.
"The fact is the public trusts nurses, and nurses don't trust Meg Whitman," said Melinda Markowitz, president of the California Nurses Assn., who argued Whitman would cut important health-care and education jobs across the state.
Whitman's appearance inside Porto's lasted only a few minutes as she had to push through a dense crowd to shake hands and thank supporters — all while opponents yelled and chanted in the background.
Whitman will face Democratic Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown in Tuesday's general election.
At a news conference, Whitman said she was not surprised by the aggression of her opponents, which she said showed a fear that she would slash their "lavish pensions" and other benefits.
"What you see is that the unions are fighting for the control they've had in Sacramento for the past 10 to 15 years," she said.
Whitman's visit comes just two days after she told Fox News that her former illegal-immigrant housekeeper should be deported.
When asked if she would stand by that statement, Whitman said she is leaving the decision to federal authorities.
"Unfortunately, she broke the law and forged documents," she said.
A recent Los Angeles Times/USC poll showed her trailing Brown and losing favor among Latino and women voters.
But Whitman supporter Irene Martinez, who took a break from her Glendale job to get a glimpse of the candidate, said her support was not affected by the housekeeper controversy.
"I'm Mexican," she said. "It's just dirty games. If you falsify things in any business, you're going to be fired. What's the big deal?"
Campaign officials said Porto's was chosen for one of her final campaign stops because it exemplified the "American dream."
Betty Porto's mother, Rosa Porto, started her bakery out of her home in Cuba, then immigrated to the United States in 1971 and opened her first restaurant in Los Angeles in 1976. The bakery has evolved into a destination, drawing customers from throughout the region for its unique menu.
Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado also stopped at Porto's earlier this week, although his appearance drew a smaller crowd.
Betty Porto, a Republican who said she plans to vote for Whitman, said she was flattered when the campaign approached them, but wished it had turned out to be less raucous.
"I wanted it to be something that was a little more civilized. It got a little out of hand," she said. "But people get passionate about politics."