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Home Stretch: Meg and Jerry on Air and Ground

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

The early onset senility sweeping through the executive suite of Calbuzz has caused us to forget the author of the best recent tweet on the governor’s race so, with apologies to this anonymous Twitter talent, we’ll just rip it off:

Jerry Brown is your crazy uncle and Meg Whitman is your mean aunt.

Unfair, to be sure. But concise and on point.  Pick your poison: The haughty billionaire and self-appointed savior of California who’d casually kick you to the curb if you’re an inconvenience and later deny it ever happened. Or the dedicated but distracted, impulsive and hyperactive political savant who’s always eager to inform you he’s the smartest guy in the room.

As they charge into the final two weeks of the campaign, both candidates are seeking to alter those meta-images. eMeg has hopped on a bus to hit every diner and coffee shop she can find across the state, wolfing down cheeseburgers and milk shakes at a heart-stopping rate while promising she’ll get everybody a job; Krusty the General has been focused more on substance, talking incessantly about budgets, taxes and the green job economy (with a dash of hothouse populism on the side).

Whitman’s sudden interest in being with the folks, which seems to us something she might have done, oh say, in the summer of 2009, is an effort to repair her badly sagging favorability ratings, as nearly a year of overwhelmingly negative ads worth something north of $100 million seem to have convinced California voters she’s just not a very nice person.

Add to that the facts that, a) from the start, very few of her ads have been positive and of those not one has been memorable and b) Her Megness on the natural doesn’t appear to be the kind of person you feel all warm and fuzzy about when she walks in the room, and it’s clear why her strategists have decided their best play is putting her out on the road.

We’ll fight them in the air…There’s no question that the strategy team at Camp Whitman believes the race is within the margin of error — a few points either way — depending on what the turnout is. If the Democrats, who have a 13-point registration advantage, show up with 10% more Ds than Rs, Whitman’s in deep yogurt. But at an 8-point spread, it’s a jump ball, they think. Not to mix a metaphor.

“We’ll beat them in GOTV [more on this later],” said Mike Murphy, Whitman’s chief strategist. “The issue is how we can increase DTS (decline-to-state voters) . . .  We have a lot of DTS mail afoot right now.”

Meanwhile, on the air, Whitman is running two tracks: a positive ad titled “Baloney,” that has a warm, talk-to-the-viewer Meg talking about jobs, schools and cutting government; and negatives that savage Brown as weak on the death penalty – with cops in (some sort of) uniform calling him a Rose Bird-loving wuss – and fiercely in favor of raising your taxes, stealing your purse and allowing fat, lazy, 55-year-old, retired state workers to eat bonbons and sip champagne.

As for Brown, he has spent most of the campaign pretending there isn’t a campaign. When he finally, reluctantly, announced his candidacy, he did one web video and then retreated to his clubhouse headquarters in Oakland, foraying out only to make self-serving weighty announcements connected to his duties as attorney general.

Given that a vast swath of the electorate has only dim recollections about his first turn as governor, he has risked being defined in the race by Whitman’s attack ads, which have portrayed him as a wild-eyed socialist, consorting with Castro and out to seize the public treasury on behalf of his labor thug friends. Fortunately for him, his union cronies spent $14 million attacking Whitman all summer long and kept her from breaking away.

Brown’s own straight-to-the-camera ads, consistently emphasizing “no new taxes without voter approval,” have had a decidedly home-movie quality about them compared to Whitman’s high-gloss spots. That, Brown aides tell us, was intentional – to underscore the essential fault line Krusty hoped to bring to the campaign: Whitman is phony; Brown is authentic.

Thus his recent strong emphasis on Meg’s proposal for a capital gains tax cut, which positions him as a fighter for the middle class, his discussions of his green jobs plan and his gauzy recitations of how he just can’t wait to dig into the details of the messed-up budget with his 120 closest friends in the Legilsature (Calbuzz sez: Watch what you wish for, Jerry).

The bright kids at Camp Krusty believe their guy has been picking up 1-2 points per week since Labor Day and that the race is now moving firmly in their direction. They think they’ve got both the issues and the character arguments on their side and that she has blown it with Latinos, women and moderates — all key components of a Democratic statewide victory.

On the air, Brown has used his cached $20 million to burnish his “knowledge and know-how” to balance the budget, create jobs and make the tough decisions. But he’s also running blistering ads that attack Whitman’s character, suggesting (with a polygraph running in the background) that she’s a liar and another citing tough language about Whitman from a San Jose Mercury News endorsement and highlighting the backing from most of California’s major newspapers. Tuesday morning Team Krusty rolled out still another new ad, this one with clips of Whitman and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger making almost identical arguments for how they would lead California.

We’ll fight them on the ground…Meanwhile, in the background, the Whitman campaign apparently is operating a major effort to micro-target voters and get them to cast a ballot for Meg. She’s not only got TV ads in Mandarin and Cantonese, but phone banks with people who speak Korean and Farsi, commercial information about voters’ incomes, automobiles and magazines.

Bottom line, they’ve got the ability to find a one-eyed, pickup-driving, Basque subscriber to Field & Stream in Atwater, if they think he’ll vote for Whitman.

So fancy is their program, that Garry South, the former consultant to Gray Davis (the last Democrat elected governor since Brown), is practically drooling. He’s been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post praising Whitman’s voter targeting efforts and slamming the California Democratic Party and its chairman, John Burton for a) giving $3.85 million to Brown and b) not having a decent GOTV effort of its own.

“This is not the way it’s supposed to work,” South told the Journal. “The Democratic nominee for governor in this state has to be the primary funder of coordinated campaigns.”

Brown, he told the Post, “will be arguably competitive on the air for the last four weeks, but I do not believe there is anything approaching a get-out-the-vote operation on the ground that is going to be up to the task.”

South’s praise for the Republican campaign and his dismissal of his own party’s effort drew a sharp rebuke from the CDP’s executive director Shawnda Westly. “In eight years he’s done nothing of note and it’s no surprise that Garry’s on the sidelines in one of the most competitive races in history,” she said. “He simply doesn’t know what’s happening in the current Democratic Party.”

We’ll fight them on the web...In 2009 and 2010, CDP Chairman Burton and the Democrats have raised a whopping $21.5 million which has been meticulously divvied into state and federal accounts because of varying limits on contributions, party officials told Calbuzz.

Even after giving Brown a big chunk of dough (“John doesn’t want a governor who will fuck poor people,” one CDP source said.) the party for the first time has been operating a $4 million voter contact program over the last three months of the general election. (That’s in addition to $2 million in anti-Whitman issue ads about Goldman Sachs that the party ran during the primary campaign.)

Not including training and voter-list sharing and technology disseminated last year, the party is using that $4 million to hunt down a million occasional Democratic voters, get absentee ballots to them, get them to turn them in and on a planned four-day door-to-door walk to find and bring out voters who still haven’t been contacted or convinced to vote, we’re told.

The Democrats’ targeting is surely not as elaborate as Whitman’s is purported to be. But it’s a far cry from the flaccid efforts the CDP made when South and Davis were in power in Sacramento. Back then, the governor was raising money for the party just to keep the lights on at headquarters, CDP officials said. Times have changed, they insisted.

Moreover, they’ve been assisted by the Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America, which has given the state party the micro-targeting tools that the Obama campaign used to historic effect in 2008. That’s not to mention the Latino-focused ground operation being managed by labor in Southern California and the Central Valley.

Whether GOTV efforts from either side, however, will make much of a dent is hard to predict. In a normal year, most consultants think GOTV can be worth 2-4 percentage points. Whether Whitman’s lavish program can overpower the Democrats’ effort is unclear. But in a close race, every little bit matters.

Liveblogging the Dominican Dog Fight

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Update 2:45 p.m. Calbuzz Steady Hand Video is up with a piece by video reporter Jennifer Fey of the action that took place outside the debate hall and press room last night. Her report is here.

In a sharp, fast-paced and intelligent debate, managed expertly by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown gave any voters still undecided about the governor’s race as clear a choice as they could want: a businesswoman focused on private sector jobs and a lifelong public official focused on untangling gridlock in government.

Whitman scored well on a variety of issues, including a double dose of arguing that Brown is soft on crime and in the pocket of the unions. Brown hammered Whitman on her plan to cut capital gains taxes to benefit the rich and her failure to support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Brokaw asked impertinent questions with ease: What made Whitman interested in government after not voting for so many years? Did Brown sanction the use of the word “whore” to describe Whitman by someone in his campaign?

Brown, unexpectedly, was the first to attack, asking Whitman how much she personally would make if her plan to cut the capital gains tax was approved. But Whitman ridiculed Brown’s argument that he would cut the governor’s office budget and said he’d be “the same old same old.”

While Whitman demonstrated skill and knowledge, there was nothing in the debate that changed the dynamic of the race. However it was on Monday it will remain on Wednesday. Rare is the candidate who can use a debate to make himself or herself more appealing. Neither candidate did that, but neither did they make themselves more unappealing.

One note for Brokaw: In comparing the use of the word “whore” by someone on Brown’s staff to describe Whitman’s alleged sell-out to the Los Angeles police union to the use of the “n” word, Brokaw framed the issue with a false equivalency. One is a slur; the other is a blood libel. He knows better: that’s why he could say the word “whore” but had to use “the n word” as it’s “equivalent.”

Late add: That said, Brown’s apology was weak and his response was defensive and ineffective — and that’s what got picked up by most of the writers about the debate.

A brief rundown on key issues covered:

– Capital gains taxes: Meg wants to cut them because they’re a tax on jobs and innovation; Jerry says that would drive California even further into debt and steal billions from schools.

– Immigration: Whitman wants to secure the borders, bring in temporary workers and adopt new technology to verify citizenship; Brown also wants border security but emphasizes  comprehensive reform and supports a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, which Whitman opposes.

– Using the word “whore”: Whitman takes it personally that someone in Brown’s camp suggested calling her a “whore,” and she’s deeply offended for all women; Brown said he’s sorry the word was used and referenced a Calbuzz report about Whitman’s campaign chairman, Pete Wilson, calling members of Congress “whores.” He rejected Brokaw drawing equivalency between the campaigns use of the “w” word and referring to African-Americans with the “n” word.

– Crime: Whitman says Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years, that he doesn’t support the death penalty and appointed Rose Bird, who voted to overturn the death penalty 64 times, to the Supreme Court; Brown said he’s tough as nails, has the police chiefs backing (or was it in his back pocket?) and has defended the death penalty as AG.

– Unions: Whitman says Brown is owned by the labor bosses who have lavishly funded his campaign and that he won’t be able to stand up to the teachers union; Brown says he’s been there before and has denied labor’s demands when he’s had to.

–Pensions: They agree on the need for pension reform – later retirement age, greater employee contributions, two-tier system – but Meg says Jerry can’t pull it off because of his union support. He says he started doing pension reform long before she came to California and can do it more effectively because he can bring all the parties to the table while she vilifies labor. He says he exemption of law enforcement from her call for an end to defined benefit plans is a sell-out, she say cops deserve better treatment.

–AB 32: Meg says the number of green jobs to be created in the short term is not worth losing existing jobs under current economic conditions. Jerry says her moratorium plan will cause uncertainty for investors, and the only ones who want to get rid of existing law are big oil and petrochemical companies.

–Prop. 8 – Meg says she is against gay marriage and that Brown shirked his duty as AG by not defending Prop. 8 in court. He said he acted properly, and according to precedent, by refusing to defend a measure that imposes discrimination.

–National political leaders – He said he welcomes Obama campaigning for him in California and thinks he’s doing a good job. She said she’ll be otherwise occupied when Sarah Palin comes to the state and that she supports someone else – Mitt Romney – for president.

6:20 p.m - On the live feed into the press room, the president of Dominican University just introduced moderator Tom Brokaw, who comes out on crutches. He says he suffered an unidentified “mishap” on his Montana ranch and says he’s a lot like California:  “We’re both broken at the moment,” he said. “The difference is that I hope to be repaired by the end of the year.”

Talks about his personal, professional and family attachments to California: “In so many ways, California is a distillation of America.” Adds that he hopes to affect “the tone of this campaign.”

Brokaw introduces Jerry to the audience, recalling he first met Krusty with he, Tom, was covering Pat Brown’s campaign for governor in 1966. Introduces Meg as “one of the rock stars of the dot.com era.”

6:30 Throw to Brokaw after big taped plug for D.U. He says we’re going to learn lots of stuff about practically everything. Explains the ground rules – no opening statements. First question to Meg.

Tom waaaayyyy up on Mt. Olympus – JFK’s inaugural address is cited — asks the candidates to tell voters what they – the voters – can do for California.

Meg immediately starts talking about herself. Straight campaign schtick and talking points. Doesn’t answer the question except to say that “What people will have to do is support the next governor,” “pull together” and “there’s going to be some shared sacrifice.”

Brown on talking points too: Can’t point fingers, “rise above the poisonous partisanship” rise above categories and be Californians first. “Some people say this is a failed state – it’s not.” He doesn’t answer either.

Tom cites poll that says voters believe that we could cut 20 percent of budget without much affect: “Have voters become unrealistic?”

Meg says “they’re on the right track” and recites talking points on welfare, pensions and government efficiency, once again claims she can cut $15 billion with little impact.

Jerry: “A long time ago I said government was facing an era of limits and, boy, people didn’t like that” but it’s true, he said.

Q3: Should we look at changing Prop. 13 as a key to reform?

Meg: “Proposition 13 is absolutely essential to the future of California.” Says  one of the reasons she’s running is to protect Prop. 13. “Only way to increase revenues is to create jobs.” She sounds sharp and very specific.

Jerry: “There’s no sacred cows over the long term.” I once opposed 13 and then I made it work. Once again plugs Howard J’s endorsement of him. Brown says it’s a “myth” that homeowners are paying more than business.

Says the big problem with Prop. 13 is that in implementing Legislature moved too much power to Sacramento. Says one thing he wouldn’t do is cut the capital gains tax like Meg.

Meg gets a rebuttal and argues that cutting capital gains will create jobs. Jerry rebuts that 82% of the savings would go to people making $500K or more.

First great moment: Asks Meg directly how much she would make personally on such a tax cut. She says she’s “an investor” who would benefit along with “job creators.” She bashes Jerry saying he’s responsible, as a professional politician, for running down the economy over decades.

Jerry says her statements are “demonstrably untrue” and quotes San Jose Mercury News endorsement. Notes that there have been three GOP governors since him. Meg says that it’s “a classic politicians answer” – it’s “a half answer.”

Tom asks about the budget.

Notes Jerry has said “the process is the plan” and asks him to deny that it will be just more of the same, like the 100-day late budget just completed.

Jerry says it’s different because he’s done this before and can make it work by starting earlier and bringing all the stakeholders. We’ve heard this all before.

Tom to Meg: What alterations would you make in existing budget for 100 days?

Meg: Jerry did say “the process is the plan” and if you liked the process, you’ll like his plan. Gets into Jerry face about his promise to cut governor’s budget: “Do you know how much the governor’s budget is?” She cuts off his answer and says it’s $18 million and “if that’s your plan we’re in trouble.”

Good round by Meg. Jerry says “you’ve got to get the Legislature on board or nothing happens.” Says Meg doesn’t have a plan, doesn’t detail $15B in cuts or 40K layoffs.

Brokaw: What about the 100,000 lbs gorilla – underfunded pension system?

Brown says it has to be a two-tier system, credits Arnold for getting a good start on it. “A knowledgeable governor can get the compromise you need.”

? to Meg: What about existing pensioners? Meg says Jerry is “do what I say, not what I do” and hits Jerry over record in Oakland. “If we do not resolve this pension issue, California is going to run out of money.”

New employees have to come in under a different deal. BUT: law enforcement should get a special deal and stay on defined benefit plan unlike everyone else who should be moved to 401(k) program.

Brokaw pounces on that and cites extravagant pensions for L.A. cops, noting that some of them are higher than retired Army generals. Here’s the difference between me and Jerry Brown: he’ll owe his election to the unions that have been attacking me; I’ll be independent because I paid for my own campaign. She didn’t answer the question.

Jerry all defensive about her comments about Oakland record and dithers about that. Says the elephant in the room is that she would exempt law enforcement. Meg says she’s not exempting law enforcement because she’s changing age of retirement, contribution.

Here it comes: Brokaw raises the “whore” comment: “We’ve heard no outrage from you” about this.

Brown said it was a private conversation. Meg and he face to face: You’re defending your campaign against a slur on me. Brown cites fact from Calbuzz story about Pete Wilson calling Congress “whores.”  She tut-tuts that it’s not the same thing. He reaffirms his apology “I’m sorry.”

She says she got the endorsement not because of pension but because she’s tougher on crime, death penalty, etc. Jerry says he has more law enforcement endorsements and he has done dozens of death penalty cases.

Tom on AB32 and Prop. 23: Do you really think it’s going to kill jobs, despite what George Schultz, a great American says.

Meg says she wants to “freeze it, then fix it.” She thinks a one-year moratorium would be best: “We can be green and still smart” and first priority has to be keeping jobs we have instead of focusing on creating a small number of green jobs.

Brown says problem is “start stop” which creates uncertainty for investors. “The people who are crying are two big oil companies from Texas and one petrochemical conglomerate from the Midwest.”

Lots of audience applause, hooting and yelling.

Meg talks over Brokaw and says “what’s wrong with taking a break” on AB32? ”

Bushwah says Brown: there’s no evidence that this going to hurt 90% of existing jobs; we need to stimulate green industry.

Brokaw: What’s the role of the CTA?

Jerry: It’s a very important role. “You can’t go to war” with people who have to be part of the solution.

Meg: She’s still back on AB32. “Jerry Brown needs to get out and campaign more.” Says that the “bosses of the California Teachers Association” are a big part of the crisis in public schools. “We have to make radical changes.”

Brokaw: You’re spending a lot of dough but why didn’t you vote? Is there something else you might have done to benefit the state we don’t know about?

Meg repeats her rote apology for voting. Every candidate is a package of strengths and weaknesses. But spending my own money is a really, really good thing because otherwise “all the union bosses will collect the IOUs” for supporting Jerry campaign. “Of course Griff and I have a foundation.” Of course.

“This was always supposed to be a citizen democracy.”

Jerry: My entire campaign has been supported by many business and many ordinary citizens. She’s raised $30 million from people who will benefit directly from her “key economic plan” which will “take money from schools and invest in her friends.”

Talks about his work in charter schools and says that’s fine what we have to do is focus on the public education system. Push political power down to local level.

Meg says “Mr. Brown just said something he knows it’s not true” and she never said she wanted to keep money from schools.

Brokaw: Let’s go back to immigration. Recalls Meg spine of steel comments and says if you couldn’t figure it out how is anyone else supposed to.

Firing Nicky “broke my heart” (wonder what it did to Nicky?) but we really need an e-verify system. We need more infra red and motion sensor technology on the border. “I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I don’t think the Arizona plan is right for California.”

Brokaw to Jerry: You’re the top cop – why shouldn’t businesses be held responsible? Krusty says they should but it’s a federal problem but he’s worked with the fed through AG office.

The big problem is we have millions of people “in the shadows” and we need a comprehensive plan that includes a path to citizenship. She doesn’t. We need to think about immigrants as people. “And by the way…it’s a sorry tale” but “but after nine years of working for her why didn’t she get her (housekeeper) a lawyer?” Meg looks major pissed.

Tom asks Jerry why he hasn’t done anything about murderous drug dealing. He says he has.

Tom asks Meg: You’re opposed to Prop. 19 – what’s wrong with it being controlled, and administered by the state? She’s “firmly opposed” because “it’s not the right thing.”

And another thing: JB says he’s tough on drug dealers but she got the endorsement of a narcotics officers association. “Jerry Brown has been soft on crime for 40 years.” Rose Bird fought against all 64 death penalty cases that came her way. Look at my front-line cop organizations endorsements.

Brokaw to Meg: How important is Prop. 8? I’m running for governor to advance my talking points. But I’m against gay marriage. What is the responsibility of the chief law enforcement – he needs to defend that lawsuit on appeals. “It’s really dangerous” for him to make a decision on what part of the constitution he will defend and what part he won’t.

JB: I’m following precedent about an earlier racial discrimination.

Back to crime, stumbles and says, “I’ve got the police chiefs in my back…I’m got the police chiefs backing me.”

Meg laughs a really scary laugh and says, “I think Jerry was saying he’s got the police chiefs in his back pocket.”

“Sometimes, unaccustomed as I am to politics,” I misspeak.

Tom: Jerry what do you think of Obama? He’s terrific and I look forward to him coming to campaign for me.

Meg, how about that Sarah Palin? Meg says “I’ve supported other candidates” for president. And another thing: Jerry Brown is a major tool of unions – keeps talking while Brokaw tells her her time is up.

Brokaw: What about relaxing the two-thirds vote for the budget – Prop. 25. Meg doesn’t answer but says she supports a two-year budget plan. Jerry says he backs relaxing two-thirds for budget not for two-thirds.

Jerry gets last word saying unions, business, they’re all part of the process.

“I’ve been in the kitchen, I know what it is to say yes, and what it is to say no. She’s been in the bleachers, working for an internet company.”

Press conferences: Meg’s on first. She thought she did a great job. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things went.”

Tough question on what is your record on drug enforcement – whatrecord do you have? I meant my policies, if I said me record, I misspoke.b

She was “stunned by Jerry Brown’s insensitivity” to use of word “whore” which is very offensive to Californians especially women.

Q: How was Brown campaign use of “whore” different than Wilson’s reference to “whores” in Congress. Completely different. How is it different? Completely different.

Q: I watched debate with Latinos and they don’t like your handling of the Nicky Diaz matter – is that over. “Absolutely.” It’s all Gloria Allred’s fault and Latinos care about a lot of other stuff that I talk about.

8:06 p.m. Brown is here. “Very spirited” debate. He’s standing in front of the podium instead of behind. He says biggest issue was her lack of answer on how much capital gains cut will benefit her personally. “I intend to get an answer to that” before election.

Brown asked about “whore.” I’ve apologized, I apologized again tonight” and I have nothing more to say about it.

And anyway, he rants, she should apologize for how she treated her maid especially about saying she stole the mail.

Liveblogging the Debate: Meg Attacks, Jerry Defends

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

In a well-argued and classic ideological debate for governor, Republican Meg Whitman Tuesday night aggressively attacked Democrat Jerry Brown as a tool of public employee unions who will do nothing to change the status quo in Sacramento while he repeatedly portrayed her as an ill-prepared Schwarzenegger clone with policies designed to serve only the rich.

“I don’t think you can find two more different candidates,” Whitman told reporters moments after the event at UC Davis ended, summing up the sharp contrasts between her and Brown on major issues, especially tax policy, illegal immigration and their ability to work effectively as governor to balance competing interests.

“I think it was a very exciting exchange,” Brown said after the debate. “I think the views and major differences were very well projected and I think people are in a little better position to make a judgment.”

Although the candidates for governor were closely matched, Whitman kept Brown on defense throughout much of the one-hour event at UC Davis, repeating the attack lines from her commercials. Brown, however, was more natural, funny and unrehearsed, as he reached to make a more personal connection with voters who might be just tuning into the race.

“I care a great deal about public service,” Brown said in his best riff. “I think it’s honorable. And I’ve lived in this state all my life. I love it and I voted here all my life. God willing, I’ll spend the rest of my life and die in this state. I love it.

Polished, if somewhat nervous, eMeg was consistently on message and solid in discussing policy as she kept up a steady stream of sharp criticism against Brown’s record on taxes and spending during his first turn as governor, and his performance on schools and crime while mayor of Oakland. Time and again she hit him over the strong financial backing he has from labor, playing on public anger against government and pessimism about the direction the state is headed.

Whitman’s best line, after noting that Brown and the labor unions have been joined at the hip for decades: “Putting Jerry Brown in charge of negotiating with the labor unions around pensions, around how many people we have in the government is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”

Feisty, funny and self-deprecating about his age, Brown used  rhetorical jujitsu to turn some of Whitman’s attacks back on her, painting her corporate experience as too limited and too shallow to stand up to the pressures of being governor. He not only compared the business executive rationale for her candidacy to Schwarzenegger’s, but also linked her both to the Wall Street meltdown and to George Bush supply side policies in Washington, saying her call for a capital gains tax cut would “benefit millionaires and billionaires” including her. “Unions, yeah, they have their problems, but what about business over there?”

Besides taxes, the clearest difference between the two came on illegal immigration, with Brown saying he would support a “path to citizenship” for the millions of undocumented workers in California and Whitman saying she would oppose it.

Asked how voters could be sure he wouldn’t run for president again like he did the last time he was elected governor, Brown replied: “Age. Hell, if I was younger you know I’d be running again. But I’d say at 74, whatever it’s going to be in a couple of years, I’m ready. One more thing, I now have a wife. And you know, I come home at night. I don’t try to close down the bars of Sacramento like I used to do when I was governor of California.”

Whitman made a strong defense of the $119 million of her own funds she has invested in the campaign.  “I’m up against some very significant forces,” she said. “In the last five years, public employee unions and unions throughout California have spent over $300 million on politics in California. So I’m up against a pretty big set of entrenched interests. But you know what? I think Californians are really smart. I don’t think you can buy elections. I think Californians are too smart.”

Bottom line: an exciting and entertaining event that will not change the dynamic of the race.

Live blog begins here.

4:15 pm The Calbuzz National Affairs Desk is spread coast-to-coast tonight, watching the Dustup in Davis from the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall on the UC Davis campus and from a secret livestream location on the Jersey Shore (where, in a separate campaign, the lines are crackling as voters demand The Situation not get dumped from “Dancing With the Stars”).

Before our vast team of reporters, editors, photographers and IT support settled in for the evening, however, we dropped by the Paul and Lydia Kalmanovitz Appellate Court to hear some friends and eggheads explain to us what to look for in tonight’s event.

Of course, we thought we had a pretty good handle on that when we told you what to look for this morning, but with FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur, SF Chronicle political whirligig Carla Marinucci and three chrome domes from the UCD faculty to inform us, we couldn’t resist.

Here’s what we learned: debates can matter, gotcha moments can be important, how a candidate carries him or herself can affect impressions, voters are angry, the people who will be most affected by the debate aren’t watching — they’ll hear about it on TV, radio, newspapers and the internets.

Stop the presses.

More importantly, it looks like the food at the Mondavi Center is not going to be as good as it was at St. Mary’s, where Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina went at it a few weeks ago. Cookies, jelly beans, bite-sized candy bars, coffee and water. Pretty basic. But hey, as UC Davis’s Claudia Morain explained: “We’re a public university, not a private school.” Point taken.

4:30 pm The press center is now filling up with ink-stained wretches and wretchettes from all the major MSMs and minor ones too, while Whitman’s Sarah Pompei and Brown’s Sterling Clifford schmooze reporters.

This just in — Mitchel Benson, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for University Communications and Baking at UC Davis just dropped off a plate of lemon bars, thereby pushing the food measure beyond St. Mary’s. Also, now, soft drinks! Way to go Mitch.

6 pm : It’s on: Nice quick cuts dramatic open from KCRA.

Jerry entered wearing dark suit, Meg in dark suit with fuschia top underneath, they meet in the middle of the stage and shake hands, like it’s some kind of duel, which actually it is.

Question 1 from SacBee Amy Chance: Is Sacto ungovernable?

eMeg is just delighted to be here. She wants to get Californians back to work. Enacting targeted tax cuts, streamline regs, econ development plan, blah, blah…

(Meg’s eyebags darker and larger than usual – staying up late cramming for debate?)

Amy sez: Yeah, but what about my question?

Brown puts both hands up. “I do know something about budgets.” Budget a “key characteristic of how screwed up things are” – Duh…

Says he’ll start earlier on the budget, a point that eMeg just picked his pocket on…”Transparent, exhaustive process.”

Start with gov office, legislature budget, then the agencies…”We can cut…they’re still fooling around with a lot of fat up there.”

Meg says the only way he’ll bring people together is by bringing special interests and unions  into the same room. Says unions will be there to collect IOUs.

Jerry counter-punches by noting Meg’s tax cut would benefit “millionaires and billionaires like Ms. Whitman.” Says she’d take from education to line the pockets of the rich.

Q2: Death penalty cases take too long?

Jerry reprises his personal opposition but says he will continue to do everything to implement the law.

“I’d rather have a society where we didn’t have to have the death penalty but we have it so we have to make it work.”

Meg : I will be a tough on crime governor no doubt about it.  Says this is a big contrast between her and Brown who, she says, has not been tough on crime for 40 years. Brings up Rose Bird – does anyone remember who she is?

Starts talking about something called the Criminal Justice League getting stiffed by Brown. Is Superman a member of that?

Brown slightly defensive on response. Strange answer on appointing judges by comparing himself to Dwight Eisenhower.

Meg: “Well, the record in Oakland is actually not very good” with weirdo laugh. Claims Brown has “had a change of heart.”

Q3 from Marianne Russ on job creation.

Meg repeats shtick on cutting business taxes, cutting red tape. Says other states are poaching all our jobs and that she was with Texas Governor Rick Perry who told her he comes on “hunting trips” to California looking for businesses.

Brown: Meg’s plan is taken from “the George Bush playbook.” He won’t give a $5 billion tax break to myself himself, much less to the “millionaires and the billionaires.”  He wants to create green jobs and clean energy, and oppose Prop 23 – cutaway shows grinning and looking a little like a bobblehead.

Meg has good eye contact with the camera though.

Amy Chance asks about pensions and why Jerry would reform the system if he’s benefiting from it  me.

Jerry makes night’s first funny. Says he’s worked 40 years for $78K, and if he’s elected won’t take a pension until he’s 76 and if reelected won’t take it until he’s 80: “I’m the best pension buy California has seen.”

How about you Meg – how can you negotiate if you know nothing about government?

Says she doesn’t matter because she owns nothing to unions. Doesn’t answer the question of how she could deal with the unions in favor of usual talking points. Says he has “a spine of steel” and will go to the ballot for pension reform.

Very energetic Brown says Meg is pot calling kettle black. How can she complain about union contributions when she has spent so much and has huge contributions from fat cats who will benefit from her proposal to cut capital gains?

Meg asked about lousy voting record. Briefly repeats by rote her apology and says “If I could change history I would” then immediately moves back to talking points about getting California moving again and creating jobs.

Q pivot to Jerry: You ran for president constantly when governor last time – what’s going to stop you this time?

“Age…one more thing – I now have a wife, I’m not trying to close down the bars of Sacramento.”

Rubs his head and says, “Don’t worry about that” running for president.

Meg rebuttal: Jerry Brown has had “no success improving Sacramento for the better.” Rips Brown record both in Sacramento and Oakland.

Jerry annoyed. It would take me too long to answer all of it but big surplus “didn’t come from the tooth fairy – I created the damn thing.”

Q: Will you roll back spending cuts for higher ed systems?

Brown can’t promise to do it with a $19 billion deficit and can’t even promise to freeze even though he loves UC.

How about you Meg ?

Says she’s going to find $1 billion in new money to give UC by reforming pensions and welfare programs. She thinks higher ed system is “a gem.”

“We’ve got to put Californians back to work” she says for at least for the fourth or fifth time.

She’s going to take “managerial expertise” to Sacramento.

Yeah swell says Marianne but what about my question about holding the line on fee increases?

I’d leave it to the chancellors.

Good question by Amy: How can voters trust you when you distort the truth in your ads?

Meg: I don’t accept the premise of your question. Defends the Clinton/CNN ad and says she “stands by it”. (Someone checking into campaign first time has no idea what she’s talking about). Good close about need to change status quo.

Amy asks Jerry if he’s proud of his Pinocchio ad?

He says it’s “a helluva ad” and that “Pinocchio is standing by” to make Meg’s nose grow for the stuff she’s saying tonight.

Follow-up – Meg what do you think about Jerry saying he likes his ad?

She goes right back to Clinton ad and says Brown opposed Prop. 13. Very good answer about lack of accountability and tut-tuts Brown for letting down parents and kids in Oakland after promising to be “education mayor”.

Jerry jumps in, says yes he did oppose Prop. 13 but Howard Jarvis voted for him and said that Brown made it work. Strong answer.

What about immigration?

Brown supports a “path to citizenship” and “secure the borders.” As AG says he works with ICE on fingerprint program to make sure to deport illegals who break the law.

Workplace inspections part of the solution? Yes, but feds have to do it.

How about you Meg?

I would not support a path to legalization. Workplace inspections. Eliminate sanctuary cities: “The worst, of course, is San Francisco.”

“I’m been very balanced and very fair about this” said she would have opposed Prop. 187, (had she lived here and, perhaps, if she would have voted in any case). Opposes Arizona law.

“Illegal immigration is just that, illegal and we have to stop the magnet” – somewhere out there Steve Poizner is hocking up choking on his beer.

Big difference on path to citizenship.

Q: Aren’t you trying to buy the election?

Says she has to spend this much because unions spent a total of $300 billion over five years. This will give me independence. If you want someone who will just go along, then I’m not your candidate. Casting Jerry as status quo.

Changes in campaign finance laws? “Not the first thing I would tackle.” Ha!

Q to J: How will you be independent given support of unions? There isn’t anybody cheaper: “I was legendary for my frugality.”

“Unions yeah they have their problem – but what about business over here?”

Trying to tie Meg to Wall Street, talking speaking up for the working class – “people who clean bed pans, our police, our fire…I do cherish and appreciate the work they do…We’ve tried this business of the business person coming in with a spine of steel.”

Brown: “The Chamber of the Commerce has a secret slush fund that they use to attack me.” Calls on Meg to make them disclose. Meg looks disapproving with a major smirk.

Meg: “Putting Jerry Brown in charge of (state government) “is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank.” Good line that Murphy surely told her she had to get in. Now she’s going to convene a statewide grand jury.

Brown response says “I know how to stand up against people and I know how to work with people.”

“I’ve got, at my age, the independence” to do the job.

Amy on water: Will you support Peripheral Canal?

Brown: I’ll support whatever works. Notes he sponsored last PC plan. His basic idea is that if you use the water, you have to pay for it.

Meg: “Turning our backs on water is turning our backs on jobs.” Sound bites: cheaper by the dozen.

She was for Arnold’s water bond plan that got bumped from the ballot. We have a humanitarian crisis in the Central Valley.

Final statements:

Meg: Changes her money line (“I refuse to let California to fail”) to “I refuse to believe this state, our beautiful state, cannot be better than it is. ”

She believes in the power of money many.

Brown thought long and hard about running. It’s a hard job, it’s not for someone who comes from private sector and has just run a business – it’s harder and more complicated and you don’t have all the power.

“Know-how and experience.”

“My values are different in important ways” – repeats his refusal to support tax cut for millionaires, billionaires.

Final word gets to Prop. 23 – should not suspend AB 32.

AP Was Dead Wrong on Death Penalty; New Polls

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We’re glad the Associated Press rewrote completely Paul Elias’s original story on Jerry Brown and the death penalty that they released on Tuesday because the first version was (how can we say this gently?) just plain bullshit.

Brown has not, as the AP originally wrote, had “a change of heart” on capital punishment. He’s still personally opposed to the death penalty; and, as Attorney General in a state that has the death penalty, he and his office are still seeking to enforce it.

The alleged news hook for the original, bum story was that Brown’s “name is now affixed at the top of new lethal injection procedures that California officials want to use to execute six inmates in the coming months at the San Quentin State Prison death chamber.”

Only problem: this is nothing new. Brown’s AG’s office has been arguing for several years to uphold California’s death penalty, which was put on hold in 2006 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, until the state could demonstrate that lethal injection procedures did not cause condemned prisoners to suffer cruel and unusual punishment.

“My office has been arguing these cases all along,” Brown said Monday. “We’re in the forefront on this.” Brown’s office contends that new procedures now in place will ensure that lethal injection will not be cruel and unusual punishment.

But that didn’t stop the AP from putting out a story that said: “Attorney General Jerry Brown and his lawyers are demanding that executions resume in California as soon as next week in a push that marks a significant change of heart for the former outspoken death penalty opponent.”

Which would be explosive stuff, considering the long political history of Brown and his father, the late Governor Pat Brown, on the volatile issue. Except…it’s not.

However, the original, heavy breathing AP yarn did give Meg Whitman who (like Elias, at least in this case)  doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good story, an opening to let loose one of her campaign’s typical clumsily written,  overbearing and over-reaching rants.

“Even on matters of life and death, Jerry Brown is willing to play politics. Brown’s newfound support for the death penalty after three decades of opposing it is as preposterous as his newfound appreciation for fiscal conservatism. None of this squares with Jerry Brown’s record and must have his supporters scratching their heads.”

To which, Brown’s flack, Sterling Clifford, replied: that she was the only one scratching her head:

“For Meg Whitman, who is on record at the Sacramento Bee editorial board discussing the death penalty as a cost-saving measure, to accuse someone else of playing politics with the death penalty is not something she should be doing.”

Brown’s office is seeking to use new guidelines for lethal injection to carry out the sentence on Albert Greenwood Brown next Wednesday. Albert Brown was convicted in 1980 of abducting, raping and murdering a 15-year-old Riverside County girl on her way to school.

What’s new about Brown’s position? Nothing.

“The Attorney General’s office is doing its job. The Attorney General is doing his job, which is to uphold the laws of the state of California,” said Clifford. “He’s personally opposed to it but will enforce the law.”

In other words, no change of heart. No change of anything – at least not since 1977, when Brown vowed to uphold the law after his veto of a death penalty bill was overridden by the Legislature.

How or why the AP story got dramatically rewritten, we don’t know. But we expect Brown’s head exploded when he read the original and someone went postal on the AP. Which may or may not be a capital offense.

Polls you can ignore (or not): Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling outfit, has a new survey showing Brown ahead of Whitman 47-42% among likely voters after being up 46-40% two months ago. This robocall poll has 630 alleged likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus about 4%. Most interesting finding – if the sample is any good, which we can’t confirm – Brown’s favorable is 42% positive and 45% negative while Whitman’s – after spending $120 million or so on TV – is 35% positive and 49% negative. Ouch.

Meanwhile Pulse Opinion Research, a Rasmussen offshoot, did a poll for Fox News of an alleged 1,000 likely voters (margin of error plus or minus about 3%) that shows Brown and Whitman tied at 45% each – a shift in Brown’s favor from 49-43% for Whitman on Sept. 11. Take it with a grain of salt.

As well you should give only passing credence to the finding that Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina are tied at 46% for Fiorina and 47% for Boxer – a small change from the 46-44% in Boxer’s favor in September.

Attention direct mail vendors: Worst idea in the history of your business.