Brown vs. Whitman I

California’s gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman, squared off in the first debate off the election season last night at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center. Watch it here.

On Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported that a new USC poll has Brown leading 49%-44%.

Brown, an experienced debater, seemed comfortable in front of the cameras and did a good job of wrangling the live audience in with some humor. Whitman, who has run an extremely tight and focused campaign, stuck to her message all night long, but seemed over-rehearsed at times.

Brown, the former governor of California and mayor of Oakland, characterized his opponent as a billionaire, who will serve the interests of millionaires in Sacramento. Brown also alleged that Whitman’s naivety and inexperience would make it difficult for her to get things done if elected.

Whitman, who has spent a record $119 million of her own money, stuck to the message which she has carved out in her campaign ads – Jerry Brown has had a career of failure and his connection to special interests and unions are bad for the state of California. The former eBay CEO promoted herself as a jobs-first candidate and suggested that Texas can serve as a model for the type of business climate that California should create.

There weren’t any game changing moments last night, but here are some of the highlights.

– Brown on the death penalty, “I’d rather have a society where we didn’t have to use death as a penalty. That view and preference was overruled by a ballot measure that passed. So we’ve got to make it work.”

-Whitman on Brown’s crime record, “The truth is he [Brown] has been liberal on crime for 40 years.”

– Brown on green tech, “When I was governor, California was the green tech leader of the world.”

-Brown on pensions, “Let me make something real clear. If everyone in state service worked as long as I have, the state pension fund would be overfunded by 50%. If you elect me governor I won’t collect until I’m 76. I’m the best pension buy California has ever seen.”

-Whitman on the prospect of Brown being elected, “Einstein once said, ‘Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and hoping that the results will change.’”

-Whitman on her voting record, “I’m not proud of my voting record. I have apologized for it and no one is more embarrassed than me.”

-Brown on his experience, “I’ve been in the kitchen, I’ve taken the heat.”

-Whitman on Brown’s experience, “What frustrates me about career politicians is their refusal to take accountability.”

-Brown on immigration, “We can’t round them up and deport them like they did in Eastern Europe.”

-Whitman on immigration, “We have to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal workers.”

-Whitman on Brown’s relationship with labor unions, “The labor unions and Jerry Brown have been joined at the hip for 40 years. In my opinion, putting Jerry Brown in charge of pensions is like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The fact is nothing will get done.”

-Whitman on her campaign spending, “I have put my own money into my campaign; many people believe in my vision for California. If you elect me the next governor of California, I won’t owe anyone anything.”

Here’s the SF Chronicle’s scorecard for the night.

On Saturday, Brown and Whitman will go at it again in a daytime debate sponsored by The Fresno Bee and Spanish-language network Univision. The debate will be broadcast in Spanish and English on Univision at 4 p.m.

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