September 29, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Who won last night’s gubernatorial debate? You decide! Here is a link to the video of the complete debate: http://debate.ucdavis.edu/webcast.html
Held at the University of California, Davis, this was the first of three debates between the candidates vying for California’s top office. The next debate is set for Saturday in Fresno.
Overall, analysts indicate that Whitman stayed on message and remained unruffled. Brown showed flashes of humor and warmth. Each presented their plans for California's future--and landed some zingers as well. Scroll down for highlights and fact checks, or view the full video at the above link.
ECM searched polls taken of readers by major news sites after the debate. All reader polls that we found by major news organizations sites gave the victory to Brown, though by differing margins.
Highest was the Sacramento Bee poll in the state capital (Brown 74%, Whitman 26%), where long-time political insiders recall Brown’s tenure as Governor. The results went to Brown at both the conservative Orange County Register (Brown 57%, Whitman 43%) and the liberal San Francisco Chronicle (Brown 58%, Whitman 17% with a snarky 25% choosing “did anyone actually watch this?”) An ABC poll had closer results (Brown 40%, Whitman 37%, no clear winner 33%).
(Editor's note: Not all major media outlets polled readers. We checked the major newspapers in California's biggest cities, as well as major TV networks. If you know of a non-partisan news poll with different results, please post links in the comments section below.)
Whether the debate changed minds of undecided voters, or whether Whitman can regain ground in the next two debates, remains to be seen.
Brown emphasized his experience and hammered Whitman as a billionaire former CEO whose policies would enrich the wealthiest Californians while hurting students, education, the poor and the middle class.
Whitman said she wants to cut government spending to give companies incentives to create jobs. She also pledged to fix schools, but did not address how she would resolve K-12 education problems such as growing class sizes while continuing to slash funding.
Whitman hit Brown for his support from public employee unions adding that Brown as Governor would be like putting “Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”
Brown responded that he twice voted against pay raises for state workers and drew chuckles when he quipped that if elected, he wouldn’t be able to collect his pension until age 76. “I’m the best pension buy California has ever seen.” Both candidates actually voiced similar plans to reform the pension system, supporting a raise in retirement age and increase in amount of employee contributions.
Brown slammed Whitman for promoting capital gains tax cuts “ targeted at billionaires like Ms. Whitman and millionaires," Brown said. "It's about a $5 billion tax break that will go to the richest people in California. … Where will a lot of that money come from? Our schools."
He expressed empathy for college students facing higher tuitions but did not provide a clear plan for rolling back tuitions in light of the present budget shortfall.
Brown touted support for investment in green-technologies and infrastructure projects, noting Whitman’s flip-flop on Prop 23, which would repeal clean air standards and incentives for green-tech companies. My plan is to invest in clean energy, the green tech of the future. … We can build 20,000 megawatts and again become the leader in wind and solar and geothermal,” he said. “When I was governor, California was the world leader in renewable energy. We can do that again."
Whitman criticized Brown for not being tough enough on crime, noting that the murder rate in Oakland increased while he was mayor. Brown, the current Attorney General, touted his endorsements by the state’s top law enforcement associations.
A fact check by the San Francisco Chronicle cited misleading statements on both sides.
Whitman claimed that unemployment early doubled during Brown’s time in office; Brown said 1.9 million jobs were created by the state during his term. In fact, the number of jobs did increase while Brown was in office, though unemployment also increased marginally from 9.4% to 11.1%.
Brown said taxes decreased overall while he was Governor. Whitman said they increased. Both are partly right; taxes on personal income increased somewhat in four of Brown’s eight years, though by the time he left office, per capita taxes had dropped from when he came into the office.
Whitman called for more deep cuts in state government to address the budget shortfall and get the economy back on track. “We are losing control of the government with a bloated bureaucracy,” the former E-Bay CEO concluded, promising to “do more with less.”
Whitman defended ads that media and FactCheck.org have found to be error-filled and misleading: http://www.examiner.com/elections-2010-in-los-angeles/meg-whitman-makes-... .
Brown in turn defended his campaign ads depicting Whitman as Pinocchio. “It’s a great ad,” he said, smiling.
Whitman pledged to use her business leadership experience to run California.
Brown contended that Whitman, like Governor Schwarzenegger, is a political outsider who lacks the political expertise to turn around California’s economic and other problems. He said public service is an “honorable” profession and pointed to his many years as Governor, Attorney General, Mayor of Oakland and other public offices.
“I've been in the kitchen, and I know the heat ... I have the spine and wisdom to do what's right," Brown concluded.