The governor’s race got local last night as UC Davis hosted the first of three debates between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman. Around 750 audience members gathered in the Mondavi Center to watch candidates discuss issues ranging from UC fee hikes to the death penalty. The event was also broadcast live on TV, radio and online.
Meg Whitman made jobs and accountability the focus of her responses at last night’s debate.
Whitman, former CEO of eBay, said California has the most dysfunctional
budget in the entire country. She said she’ll fix that by getting
Californians back to work and cutting taxes. She pointed out the factory
tax, which she said discourages business from coming to California.
“If we lose manufacturers, we will lose the soul of our state,” she said.
Whitman also said she would reduce state spending by reforming the state’s welfare and pension systems.
When asked what she would do about fee increases at public colleges,
Whitman, who has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a
master’s from Harvard University, said higher education is a gem and
that it breaks her heart to hear stories of students struggling to
afford public universities.
She said she would bring more money
to the system through cuts to welfare and pensions and give the money
directly to the school chancellors for allocation.
she is pro-death penalty, pro-three strikes and will be tough on crime,
which she will enforce by appointing conservative judges to the bench.
Whitman repeatedly attacked Jerry Brown’s ties to labor unions, saying
he would be beholden to the interest groups that have supported him for
the past 40 years.
Later on in the debate, she emphasized the
importance of the immigration laws. After spending a day at the border,
Whitman said she realized how little support and resources the U.S.
Border Patrol has. She said she does not support a path to legalization
and would like to hold employers responsible if they hire undocumented
workers by funding inspections. These would be paid for with the
economic gain of eliminating the illegal workforce.
mid-September, Whitman has spent $119 million of her own money on the
campaign. When asked if she was buying voters, Whitman said Californians
are smart enough to see past that and that her personal investments
give her the independence to stay true to her convictions.
final question addressed water policy in California. Whitman, who was
born and raised in New York state and currently lives in Atherton, CA,
said she supports stronger laws on conservation.
Turning our backs on water is turning our backs on jobs, Whitman said.
“I refuse to believe this state, our beautiful state, cannot be better than it is.”
BROWN EMPHASIZES EXPERIENCE, DERIDES OPPONENTS’ BILLIONAIRE STATUS
At age 72, Jerry Brown is twice as old as when he was first elected governor in 1974.
Brown said his age, experience and independence can benefit California – more than opponent Meg Whitman’s business background.
“We have to invest in our people. We have to protect our schools,” he said. “And we have to all work together, with those who are the most powerful sacrificing first.”
Currently the state’s attorney general, Brown has also served as Secretary of State, Chairman of the California Democratic Party and Mayor of Oakland. He unsuccessfully ran for President three times and once for Senate.
At last night’s debate, Brown emphasized his support of education while attacking Whitman’s billionaire status.
“I want to invest in our schools, I want to protect our schools,” he said. “I don’t want to further enrich the billionaires and millionaires – that’s what we’ve been doing pretty well these past few years.”
Regarding higher education, Brown said he would try to hold down student fees but it will be tough with the budget.
“I’d love to roll back the fees, I’d love to have a freeze,” he said. “But that would require the university to become a lot more efficient than it is or have the state find billions of dollars it doesn’t yet have.”
Whitman argued that while Brown presents himself as a proponent of education, schools suffered under his time as mayor in Oakland. Brown said that mayors cannot control the public school system; rather, he succeeded in his push for more charter schools.
To create jobs, Brown said he’d invest in green energy and support AB 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act – a bill Whitman plans to abandon. He cited the creation of one million green jobs over a 30-year period back when he was governor as proof of green energy’s potential for job creation.
Brown said he consistently carries out the law regarding executions, despite his general stance against the death penalty. When Whitman suggested that Brown is liberal on crime, Brown stated that police chief associations across the state almost unanimously endorsed him.
Brown said Whitman’s funding of her own campaign as well as her business tactics will not bode well for California, as evidenced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s legacy.
“[Schwarzenegger] was putting his own money into the campaign and that he was the guy who’d run the state like a business,” Brown said. “Well, it didn’t work out that way.”
JEREMY OGUL contributed to this article. BECKY PETERSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. JANELLE BITKER can be reached at email@example.com.