By SAM SCOTT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SAN RAFAEL — Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown attacked each other’s policies, positions and high-profile campaign gaffes Tuesday at the third and final gubernatorial debate.
“It’s not just me, it’s the people of California who deserve better than slurs,” Whitman said, criticizing Brown for an aide who was infamously recorded apparently calling Whitman a whore. “It’s not befitting of the office that you’re running for.”
Brown apologized, but later lashed back at Whitman’s own recent embarrassment — disclosure she fired her housekeeper after nine years of service after learning she was an undocumented immigrant. After such a long relationship Whitman didn’t even get the woman a lawyer, he said. It was “kind of a sorry tale,” he said.
Brown also laid into Whitman’s plans to cut the state’s capital gains taxes, saying that it would mostly benefit those making more than $500,000, including Whitman, the billionaire former eBay executive. He challenged her to say how much she would reap from such a move. Whitman, though, said that slashing the tax was key to making California competitive again.
“It’s a tax on jobs, it’s a tax on job creators and it’s a tax on investments,” she said. “We are not competitive with neighboring states.”
Veteran newsman Tom Brokaw moderated the event, despite arriving on crutches. His injury, he said, was a metaphor for California’s health.
“We’re both broken at the moment,” he told the crowd at host Dominican University. “The difference is I hope to be repaired by the first of the year.”
Whitman played up her credentials as an executive and “job creator” in facilitating the state’s recovery, saying that in Silicon Valley, leaders use innovation and technology to find new solutions to problems. In Sacramento, they just hunker down and do what they always do, an approach that Brown, a perennial politician, personifies, she said.
“It will be the same old, same old” if Brown is governor, she said.
Brown said his two terms as governor meant he could take the heat of the job, though he promised he would do thing differently, beginning with immediately calling the Legislature to Sacramento work on the next budget.
Both candidates espoused the need for public pension reform. Brown proposed a two-tier system, where future hires receive less generous benefits. Whitman said public employees need retirement plans similar to 401k offered by business, though she said police and fire officials should continue to receive defined benefits.
The debate was a key opportunity to reach the roughly one in five voters still undecided as the campaign winds down. Absentee voting stated across California last week.
It was hard to judge the winner. Victoria Escalada, for one, saw only losers. The Dominican freshmen entered the debate saying she was on the fence and left saying she didn’t want to support either, accusing both of spending the night insulting each other and avoiding direct answers.
“I’m mad about both of them,” she said.
Her friend, Jahaila Canton, a sophomore, said she hadn’t heard anything that changed her mind. She entered slightly supporting Brown and left the same way, though it was hardly emphatic. She said both dodged issues.
“I disliked her more than I didn’t like him,” she said.
Not all the candidates for governor were present, though in some cases, not for lack of trying. There are six official candidates for the state’s top executive including Laura Wells, the Green Party’s representative. She was detained and later cited and released after trying to enter the debate hall before the face-off started.
The top 5 percent of society’s wealth holders need to pay more taxes, she had said earlier. “They’re not creating jobs,” she said. “They’re creating a disparity of wealth.”
Wells had been part of a vocal group of hundreds protestors and supporters who leaned against the event barricades yelling one slogan after another.
“It’s curious,” said Sister Patricia Simpson, one of the Dominican nuns who live next to the hillside campus as she listened to the ruckus. “Tranquility is more the norm here.”