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20 October 2010

Dominican, Brokaw score high in hosting gubernatorial debate

Posted in In The News

Dick Spotswood: No winner in debate -- other than Dominican

LAST TUESDAY, the race for governor of California got local. That's when Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman came to San Rafael's Dominican University for their final face-off before the Nov. 2 election.

A smidgen of encouragement emerged at the event.
It wasn't simply that Dominican showed off its jewel box of a campus or that college president Joe Fink ran a masterful operation. The positive was that both Whitman and Brown, in the midst of a vigorous give-and-take managed, to keep the affair relatively civil and discussed real issues.

Allowing the event to become a true face-to-face debate was the work of semi-retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. A friend of Fink's, Brokaw was the A team forcing the candidates to mostly answer his well-crafted queries.
He succeeded about half the time, which is a high achievement given past performances by the two.
Unfortunately, neither Whitman nor Brown offered any detailed suggestions how to get the virtually bankrupt Golden State back on track. Both were experts at vagueness though their personal idiosyncrasies managed to come across undiluted.

Whitman, cool as a cucumber and dry as a Santa Ana wind, was disciplined, never straying from message. Dominican's Angelico Hall could have caught on fire during the debate and Whitman would have cried out, "It's all about jobs."

Brown, who gives new meaning to the word "quirky," remained unscripted and frank to the point that his handlers were concerned that the odd remark might could set off a firestorm. They needn't have worried.
There were no game changers. The debate was a tie. With Brown slightly ahead in polls despite With Whitman having spent $140 million on her effort, a draw is effectively a win for the former governor.

Whitman's plan to cut capital gains taxes in the midst of historic deficits and eliminate 40,000 state jobs was sorely lacking in details. The particulars of where the budget should be cut is left solely to voters' imagination.

If Whitman's plan was so vague as to be useless, Brown proposed no plan at all.
Oakland's ex-mayor did offer that his famously frugal personality, matched with his unpredictability, would offer him the opportunity to check the power of the public employees' unions following his own version of the "Nixon to China" principal.

If Brown does win and then turns against his union backers, as he implied, California might be the winner. The problem is that believing in that move requires an epic leap of faith.

The flap over a female Brown staffer calling Whitman a "whore" was raised in a way that harmed both candidates.

Brown was forced to defend use of an offensive term habitually used among politicians of all stripes to describe candidates who sells out their principals for a contribution or endorsement.

Whitman then faced the even more unenviable task of explaining her mammoth flip-flop on her once strong policy plank of reforming California's out-of-control public employee pension system.

Just before securing the coveted endorsement of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the former eBay CEO eviscerated the main tenant of her pension reform scheme -- conversion to a 401(k)-type defined contribution retirement plan -- by declaring it no longer applied to police, firefighters and prison guards.

Exempting the public safety sector from pension reform is folly. Almost 75 percent of the currently estimated $400 billion pension deficit relates to the fact that state and local public retirement plans allows public safety officers to retire at age 50 at 90 percent of their salary for life.

Take the politically popular cops and firefighters out of meaningful reform and it's impossible to effectively address the problem.

19 October 2010

CA Gov Candidates Focus on State's Future in Final Debate

Posted in In The News

Fox News Los Angeles Covers the Debate

13 October 2010

Final Meg-Jerry Debate a Hot One

Posted in In The News

Candidates hound each other over recent controversies, state's tough problems

By Jennifer Gollan

SAN RAFAEL — From jobs to special interests, California Attorney General Jerry Brown and his rival Meg Whitman sparred over the state’s intractable problems and traded rhetorical roundhouse jabs over the recent controversies dogging the gubernatorial candidates in their last debate before the November election Tuesday night.

The pair spent one hour debating soaring pension costs, taxes and immigration at Dominican University. The debate, moderated by veteran NBC journalist Tom Brokaw, followed fumbles that have weighed on both campaigns over the last two weeks; an undocumented maid in Whitman’s case, and a “whore” insult lobbed at Whitman from Brown’s camp.

In response to the heated wrangling, the audience erupted in frequent whoops and rounds of applause — leading Brokaw at one point to request that the crowd be less “demonstrative.”

Tuesday’s debate gave the candidates their last chance (on a shared stage) to bury any controversy and woo female and independent voters, crucial blocs for either candidate to win on Nov. 2. Recent polls show Brown and Whitman locked in a virtual tie.

Brown, a former two-term California governor, chastised Whitman as a political upstart whose experience as eBay's former chief executive officer would be moot in Sacramento. Whitman, the Republican nominee, described her Democratic rival as being “in the back pocket” of labor unions and other special interests, leaving him incapable of slicing public employee pension benefits and untangling other problems.

“This is about change versus the status quo,” said Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. “It was a chance for each to take a last stab at resolving their own scandals and take a last jab at their opponent.”

The candidates face daunting challenges including unemployment and legislative gridlock. California’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, the third-highest rate in the nation. Meanwhile, lawmakers recently passed a budget for the next fiscal year — more than three months late.

Both candidates sought to distance themselves from recent flaps. Brown tried to tamp down the blowback from an incident involving one of his campaign workers, who called Whitman a “whore” at least twice. The statements were inadvertently recorded at the end of a voice mail message Brown had been leaving for a Los Angeles police union.

“It’s unfortunate,” Brown said. “I’m sorry it happened and I apologize.”

Whitman countered that the slur was deeply offensive to women, a strategic reference to a core slice of the electorate.

“Every Californian, and especially women, know what’s going on here, and it’s a deeply offensive term,” Whitman said, adding: “It is not befitting of the office you are running for.”

But Whitman quickly found herself defending her decision last year to fire Nicandra Diaz-Santillan, her former housekeeper of nine years, after learning she was an undocumented immigrant. Brokaw, in one of several pointed questions, asked, “If you couldn’t find someone in your home was illegal, how do you expect businesses to?” Whitman dismissed the controversy, saying Californians had moved beyond it.

Brown, for one, had not.

“It’s sort of a sad story. She didn’t even get her a lawyer, which she could have done,” he said.

The candidates pounded each other on special interests; Brown said he had the experience to stand up to powerful labor unions and teachers, while Whitman positioned herself as an outsider immune to such interests.

Brown chastised Whitman for carving out an exception for police, firefighters and other state law enforcement in her plan to reform pensions, undercutting her pledge to ignore special interests if elected. Two independent expenditure committees — California Law and Order and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association — have responded to Whitman’s pension proposal, spending nearly $1.3 million between them on her behalf.

Whitman echoed remarks she has made frequently during the campaign, saying her wealth accorded her independence that Brown lacked. The Republican nominee has thumped Brown in campaign spending, pouring $140 million of her personal fortune into her election bid — making her the top-spending candidate for statewide office in U.S. history.

“It allows me to go to Sacramento with no strings attached,” Whitman said.

Whitman said she would lift the economy by eliminating the capital gains tax — something Brown said would aid corporate executives at the expense of school funding.

Both candidates vowed to beat back pension costs. Brown advocated a two-tiered pension system. By contrast, Whitman proposed a 401(k)-type plan for rank-and-file employees, with an exception for police, firefighters and other state law enforcement officials that allowed them to retain guaranteed pension benefits, known as defined benefit plans.

“Jerry brown is beholden to these public employees unions,” Whitman said. “They are paying for all the expenditures that are paying for the attack ads against me. I will have the independence to take on this very serious problem.”

Brown said he would leverage his experience to stand up to these unions.

“I don’t have to learn on the job … I have done this before,” Brown said, taking a swipe at Whitman.

But it’s that very expertise that would drag down Brown’s leadership, Whitman said.

For example, Brown’s plan to solve the budget crisis by cutting the governor’s budget by 10 to 15 percent — or roughly $18 million annually — represents just a smidgen of the $19 billion deficit the state faced this year, she said.

Whitman ridiculed Brown for bringing the “same old, same old” approach to Sacramento if elected.

The candidates also took opposite tacks on the environment.

Whitman came out against Proposition 23, which would roll back AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change law. She reiterated her promise to suspend AB 32 until the economy improves, saying green jobs comprise a fraction of the state’s economy.

“AB 32 will do real damage to the jobs that are in the other 97 percent of our economy,” Whitman said. “We cannot jeopardize the jobs of people who are working so hard today.”

Brown condemned the one-year moratorium on the law proposed by Whitman as retrograde.

“It is trying to turn the clock back, it is stop-and-start,” Brown said. “It creates regulatory uncertainty.”

13 October 2010

Whitman and Brown's final debate a contentious one

Posted in In The News

By Cathleen Decker, Los Angeles Times

In a blistering final debate, Democratic candidate for governor Jerry Brown apologized to his Republican counterpart Meg Whitman on Tuesday for a slur directed at her by an associate, an apology that Whitman did not explicitly accept as she cast his campaign as insulting to all Californians.

Brown continued to insist that Whitman was seeking office to enrich wealthy Californians such as herself, while she derided Brown as a "same old same old" politician who helped lead California into its present straits and said she represented a fresh start for the beleaguered state.

The 60-minute contest, held at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, crackled with disagreements on a host of issues, but the sharpest jousting came on the dispute that has roiled the campaign in recent days — an inadvertent recording of a Brown strategy session in which an unidentified person suggests portraying Whitman as a "whore" for creating a loophole in her pension plan to appeal to public safety unions that were endorsing her in the governor's race.

Moderator Tom Brokaw, the former NBC anchorman, told Brown that the word represents, to many women, the same sort of insult that "the N-word" represents to African Americans.

Brown at first said he did not agree with the comparison — a statement that drew an audible reproach from the crowd — and sought to question the timing of the release of the "5-week-old private conversation … with garbled transmission."

"I will say the campaign apologized promptly and I'm affirming that apology tonight," he said.

"You're repeating it to Ms. Whitman?" Brokaw asked.

"Yes, I am," Brown said. "It's unfortunate. I'm sorry it happened. I apologize."

Whitman, however, told Brown that Californians "deserve better than slurs and personal attacks."

"I think every Californian, and especially women, know exactly what's going on here and that is a deeply offensive term to women," she said.

Brown asked Whitman if she had similarly chastised her campaign chairman, former Gov. Pete Wilson, who used the same term in a criticism of Congress.

"You know better than that, Jerry; that is a completely different thing," she said, a retort that drew another rumble of reaction from the crowd. "The fact that you are defending your campaign for a slur and a personal attack on me — it's not befitting of California, it's not befitting of the office that you are running for."

Brown apologized a third time, and said that the utterance "does not represent anything other than things that happen in campaigns." But, he pointedly added, Whitman had received police endorsements after exempting safety officials from key parts of her pension reform plan — which he had refused to do.

"You got the endorsement of that union, I didn't, because they said I'd be too tough on unions and public employee pensions, and I'll take that," Brown said.

"I got that endorsement because that union knows that I will be tough on crime," Whitman replied. "And Jerry Brown has a 40-year record of being soft on crime."

The debate which aired on NBC stations, followed a tumultuous several weeks for the candidates, who faced controversies over the slur by the unidentified Brown associate and revelations that Whitman had employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper for nine years.

The latter issue came up only briefly toward the end of the debate, with Whitman asserting that her experience showed the need for a better verification system and Brown calling for a "human" response to handling the millions of illegal immigrants now in the country.

Apart from the confrontation over the taped conversation, the debate followed the contours of the long race for governor, now three weeks away from a decision. Brown cast himself as a candidate who could bring to the governor's office an experienced sense of how the state functions. Whitman cast herself as the outsider with what she called a "common sense" approach.

Brown tried to strike at her intentions early, though, when he turned a question about the impact of Proposition 13, the 1978 property tax relief measure, into an indictment of Whitman's plan to eradicate the state's capital gains tax.

12 October 2010

Live Blog: Whitman-Brown California Gubernatorial Debate

Posted in In The News

California’s Meg and Jerry Show could get personal tonight.

In the final debate in the high-profile gubernatorial race in California, both Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown will likely be asked to address the questions of private conduct that have dogged both of them in recent weeks.

The candidates’ third encounter, their last chance to face off in front of a statewide audience, could be the highest-profile of all: Moderated by Tom Brokaw, the former NBC Nightly News anchor, the debate is being aired live on NBC affiliate stations in California starting at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time.

Mr. Brokaw could ask both candidates to respond to recent scandals. Last week, a staffer for Jerry Brown was recorded referring to Ms. Whitman as a “whore.” Before that, Ms. Whitman faced accusations that she employed and mistreated a former housekeeper while knowing that the maid was an illegal immigrant, which she denied.

The debate is also the first since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the state’s budget for the current fiscal year, ending a record delay, and the candidates could use this forum to talk about their plans for addressing the state’s chronic budget problems.

12 October 2010

Much heat, little light in final debate between Whitman and Brown

Posted in In The News

By Karen Tumulty – Washington Post Staff Writer

SAN RAFAEL, CALIF. - Those who tuned in to Tuesday night's third and final debate in the hard-fought battle for California governor learned at least one thing about the candidates: These two people really don't like each other.

Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman unleashed a series of personal attacks that overshadowed their proposals for dealing with the problems of an economically depressed state whose government is barely functional.

Their most acidic exchange came over a recent revelation that someone in Brown's campaign had called Whitman a "whore" in a private conversation, inadvertently recorded when Brown was leaving a voice mail message for a union official.

Brown, the state's attorney general and a former governor, offered a tepid apology. He rejected a statement by moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC News that the term was akin to using a racial slur.
But Whitman, a former chief executive of eBay, insisted: "Every Californian - and especially women - know what's going on here."

Brown then attempted to turn the table by asking whether Whitman would apologize on behalf of one of her supporters, former California governor Pete Wilson, who referred to Congress as whores. Whitman insisted there was no comparison between the two incidents.

The sparring continued even after the hour-long debate at Dominican University. In post-debate remarks to reporters, Whitman said she had been "stunned by Governor Brown's insensitivity to what that word means to women."

Brown appeared soon after, and said, "I'd like Ms. Whitman to apologize to her housekeeper for something that I think is really insensitive" - a reference to the revelation that Whitman fired a longtime household employee who, she discovered, was in the country illegally.

But those were far from the only heated moments. Over and over again, Whitman portrayed Brown as an example of failed leadership and a politician who is beholden to public employee unions. Brown described Whitman - a first-time candidate who has poured nearly $140 million of her personal fortune into a campaign that has broken all spending records - as inexperienced in making government work.

When Whitman defended her proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax, saying that it was a barrier to investment and job creation, Brown demanded to know how much money Whitman - a billionaire - would save from such a move.

"I was a job creator. We have got to get someone in office who knows what the conditions are for small businesses to grow and thrive," she retorted. "Your business is politics. You've been doing this 40 years and you have been part of the war on jobs in this state for 40 years."

If there was one uplifting note from the night for Californians, it was probably this: There are only three more weeks to go before the end of this campaign.

12 October 2010

Whitman, Brown tangle over maid, slur in debate

Posted in In The News

Writers: Carla Marinucci,Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Political Writers

(10-12) 22:15 PDT San Rafael -- Gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown made a critical pitch to millions of undecided California voters Tuesday in their final televised debate, battling over controversies including her hiring of an undocumented maid and the use of a sexist slur by a member of his campaign staff.

Democrat Brown and Republican Whitman also tangled over pension reform and whether to cut the capital gains tax in a contentious, sometimes angry, exchange at Dominican University in San Rafael.

Whitman, who is trailing Brown slightly in the most recent polls, attacked him more assertively than she had in their two previous debates. The billionaire former eBay CEO, who put another $20 million of her own money into the race Tuesday, bringing her total to a record-breaking $141.5 million, faced a dual challenge: to persuade independent voters to back her while not alienating conservatives by appearing too moderate.

Brown's challenge was to excite core Democratic voters who analysts and polls say are suffering from an enthusiasm gap during this nonpresidential election year, and not commit any major gaffes.

But he appeared to stumble slightly in one of the most aggressive segments of the hourlong debate. It began with Brown responding to moderator and former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw's question about a Brown campaign staffer caught on voice mail calling Whitman a "whore."

Brown personally apologized to Whitman for the first time and called the remark "unfortunate," but also chafed at Brokaw's suggestion that to women the word is as offensive as the "n-word" is to African Americans. Whitman pounced, shaking her head and saying, "Women know exactly what's going on here," and called the word a "slur."

The housekeeper

Whitman herself was put on the hot seat when Brokaw asked about her hiring of Nicandra Diaz Santillan, an undocumented immigrant who was her housekeeper for nine years. Brokaw asked her how she intended to make good on her promise to hold businesses accountable for hiring undocumented workers when she couldn't do so herself.

She defended the hiring, saying it was through an employment agency, and added that "this is one reason why we need a very good e-verify system" that will hold employers accountable.

Brown responded by saying that when Whitman fired her housekeeper she "didn't even get (Diaz) a lawyer ... she says no to a path to citizenship and that is basically treating people from Mexico as semi-serfs, work 'em and send 'em back. It's not right."

With Californians casting mail ballots now, and three weeks until the Nov. 2 election, Tuesday's debate could be a pivotal moment in what has been California's most expensive gubernatorial contest ever.

Tangled from the start

Whitman and Brown tangled from the start, with the former two-term governor and current attorney general seeking to portray himself as a pragmatic veteran who has the experience to tackle the state's intransigent budget process.

Whitman argued that her business acumen would provide "a fresh approach, a different approach," and suggested that Brown was a failed lifelong politician.

In a discussion about cutting state taxes, including the capital gains tax, Brown kicked off their first major set-to when he turned to Whitman and asked: "Ms. Whitman, I'd like to ask you, how much money would you save" if investment and business startup taxes were cut, as she has proposed.

Whitman said: "I'm an investor, and investors will benefit from this, but so will job creators.

"My business is creating jobs, and yours is politics. You've been doing this for 40 years ... and you've been part of a war on jobs for 40 years," she said.

"If he goes to Sacramento, it will be the same old, same old," Whitman said at another point. "I've got a very detailed plan, and I think that's part of leadership."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/12/MNMD1FRP76.DTL&type=politics&tsp=1#ixzz12vVwe5nn

11 October 2010

Gubernatorial debate moderator Brokaw reflects on state politics

Posted in In The News

Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal

Tom Brokaw, who will moderate Tuesday's gubernatorial debate at Dominican University, grew up in South Dakota, spent most of his career in New York and now lives in Montana. But his professional roots are in California.

The 70-year-old retired newsman, now an NBC special correspondent, was hired by the network affiliate in the Central Los Angeles Bureau in 1966, a position that was a springboard for his rise to anchor of the "NBC Nightly News."

"Those were halcyon days," he recalled during an interview in August, after it was announced he would moderate the debate between Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman.

"I was the network correspondent, but I was also the local anchor man. So I got to go to Chicago in '68 (for the strife-torn Democratic National Convention) and to get around the country a lot and cover a lot of stuff. Then I'd have to come home and hit the cash register for the local station by doing the 11 o'clock news at night. But it worked out fine."

Brokaw's career took him to New York, but his experience in L.A. inoculated him against East Coast snobbery, and he never looked down on the often kooky politics of the Golden State, which has been tarnished by seemingly intractable budget woes as it braces for a contentious election that pits a classic liberal in Brown against Whitman, the conservative eBay billionaire.

10 October 2010

Dominican revs up for gubernatorial candidates' debate

Posted in In The News

By: Jessica Bernstein-Wax

Dominican University is wrapping up preparations for Tuesday's gubernatorial debate after a busy couple of weeks during which painters spruced up campus buildings, Comcast workers installed miles of coaxial cable and school staffers planned everything from seating charts to volunteer goody bags.

Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown will face off at the university's Angelico Hall at 6:30 p.m. with veteran NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw moderating.

"This is just yet another example of a small, independent university really doing good work," said Maureen Keefe, Dominican's vice president for external relations. "To me this is what democracy is about - it's about involvement and engagement."

18 August 2010

Lottery to be held for tix to Guv debate in San Rafael

Posted in In The News

Joe Garofoli, SFGate
If you're looking to score tix to California's nationally-watched gubernatorial debate Oct. 12 in San Rafael, here's the good news: They're free. (And we'll skip the "You get what you pay for" joke that goes here.)

The not-so-good news: You'll have to be chosen from a lottery to score them. Or be a member of moderator Tom "I'm No Patsy"Brokaw's posse.


Debate Details

Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Dominican University of California
Angelico Hall
50 Acacia Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901
Download the CAGovDebate 2010 Media Guide (1.4mb)

Press Contacts

Dave Albee
Dominican University of California
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NBC Bay Area

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