California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown debated live for the first time this campaign season Tuesday night, when they discussed their plans to help the state’s struggling economy.
The Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics hosted a debate watch in the Taper Hall of Humanities, which was preceded by a panel discussion about Whitman’s and Brown’s debate strategies.
Former California gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon and former Obama for America pollster Andre Pineda discussed what they anticipated the candidates would speak about as well as the challenges each faced coming into the debate. Annenberg Debate Director Gordon Stables moderated the event.
“They’re both going to be approaching from these different angles and seeing, can they find that way to connect with these voters,” Pineda said.
The main challenge, Pineda said, was for the candidates to find a way to identify with voters and create a relatable personality.
“With George Bush, you wanted to have a beer with the guy,” Pineda said. “And now you have Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, who aren’t quite in the same league.”
The candidates’ main difference, Simon said, is that Brown comes from a long history of government experience while Whitman has worked in the private sector as the former CEO of eBay.
“Jerry Brown has been around a long time and he’s made a lot of decisions,” Simon said.
During the gubernatorial debate, Whitman outlined her plan to improve the state’s budget by stimulating the private sector. She said she plans to create 2 million jobs for Californians by 2015 and will cut certain taxes for factories and small businesses.
“We have the third-highest unemployment rate, only behind Michigan and Nevada,” Whitman said. “We have got to get Californians back to work.”
Brown, however, said he believed tax cuts would not be as effective as his plan to work with the California legislature and boost the clean energy economic sector.
“I know that many of these legislators have no idea what’s going on with the budget,” Brown said. “You’ve got to live within your means.”
The two candidates disagreed on several key points, such as Brown’s effectiveness as governor when he served two terms from 1975 to 1983.
Brown insisted that he was able to make the best of an economy in recession, despite Whitman’s argument that Brown helped create the problems California currently faces.
“Jerry Brown has no experience changing Sacramento for the positive,” she said.
In his closing remarks, Brown emphasized his experience in government, saying it was what the state needed.
“I’ve been looking at government from every angle,” Brown said. “That’s what gives me such determination to make things better.”
Whitman, however, said she believes California needs and outsider’s perspective.
“If we are going to change the direction of the state, we are going to have to go at it very differently,” Whitman said.
Aaron Taxy, an undeclared freshman, said he grew up in Oakland and likes how Brown managed the city. Brown was the mayor of Oakland from 1998 to 2006.
“Brown talked specifics and showed the depth of his knowledge,” Taxy said.
Other students, such as Kyle Padilla, a sophomore majoring in cinema-television critical studies, said they thought Whitman debated well.
“Whitman showed how up-to-date and familiar she is with numbers and … real-world issues,” he said. “I think her biggest advantage will be growing the job market.”