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What Will Break Tie Between Jerry Brown And Meg Whitman?


California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie in the latest polls. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate? And, how might the debates impact the race for governor?

California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie in the latest polls. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate? And, how might the debates impact the race for governor?


Alisa Joyce Barba, independent editor with NPR member stations.

David Rolland, editor of San Diego CityBeat.

Teresa Connors, Regional News Editor for the North County Times.


Who do you support for California governor?

  • Jerry Brown

  • Meg Whitman


367 total votes. (This poll is now closed.)

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Voters don’t have to go to campaign events to see the top candidates for governor of California. The candidates are coming to the voters by way of debates on TV and radio. The first was Tuesday night. Another is scheduled for Saturday. It’s Republican Meg Whitman against Democrat Jerry Brown. Alisa, the candidates were in a dead heat before Tuesday’s debate. What’s changed?

ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Independent Consultant, NPR News): And thus they remain. I mean, I think that Tuesday, the debate, you know, was a perfect, you know, Meg Whitman spoke to the Republicans, Jerry Brown spoke to the Democrats. I don’t think they really wavered from their positions. I don’t think they changed anybody’s mind in that debate. It was amusing, it was educational, and it was absolutely as expected…


BARBA: …in terms of their talking points and their positions. The only thing that has changed since then, of course, is this dust-up over Nannygate. Meg Whitman had hired a maid or a housekeeper for 8 or 9 years who turned out to be living in this country illegally and there’s this – well, we all know what’s going on. Basically, she’s suing her, I believe, for lost wages or she’s got a very prominent attorney and she’s trying to make the case that they knew about it all along and Meg Whitman is denying it and it’s going back and forth.

PENNER: But the interesting part about that—and we’re not going to dwell totally on that—the interesting part, Teresa, is that just hours after the debate, this occurred. I mean, the housekeeper came forth. And during the debate Meg Whitman’s argument was that California employers must be held accountable for hiring undocumented workers and then came the allegations from the illegal immigrant. I mean, she acknowledges an illegal immigrant. Now how damaging is this allegation?

TERESA CONNORS (News Editor, North County Times): Oh, I think it’s very damaging. I mean, it’s not uncommon for politicians to talk out of both sides of their mouth. It is curious that Gloria Allred, who is the attorney representing this illegal immigrant, tends to go with women who are exposing politicians, stars, other people of notoriety at times that are very important in their lives. So it’s damaging for Meg Whitman. They always tend to come forward first with the denials, it never happened, I would never do such a thing, then there’s the waffling, then there’s, yes, it probably happened. And then there’s the hope that it will eventually go by the wayside. So she’s got damage control.

PENNER: Alisa.

BARBA: But I think she also has a certain degree of plausible deniability. I mean, the details, she hired her through an agency, she said she was legal, she didn’t find out until later she was illegal. But I think one of the more interesting things is to see how this is going to play out with the Latino voters with the – because that’s exactly where Meg Whitman and both Jerry Brown, where they are heading now. They’re trying to solidify that vote. And most of the polls show that Whitman is trailing Brown with Latinos though she had been pulling up a little bit so we’ll see. I don’t know how it’s going to play.

PENNER: Okay, so we’re talking about your next governor of the State of California. It’s going to be either Meg Whitman or Jerry Brown, and we’re going to find out in November. I’m sure you’re going to vote on this. And I’m wondering whether you’re tuned in to the campaign at all or it’s just, hey, more politics and everybody’s the same. The debates are going on now, and I’d be curious to see what is it that you would like to get out of these debates? There are four of them. And the next one is Saturday, and they have not yet talked about social issues. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. What do you want to learn from the debates between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown? Let me turn to you, David. Ironically, this second debate is focused on issues of particular interest to the Hispanic community. What are your expectations of what’s going to happen during that debate?

DAVID ROLLAND (Editor, San Diego CityBeat): I don’t know much about that upcoming debate, actually. Are they talking about immigration?

PENNER: They’re going to talk about, quote, issues of interest to the Hispanic community. The questioners will have a relationship to the Hispanic community. It’s going to be translated into English and Spanish. I believe Univision is going to be carrying it. So it’s a big deal for the Hispanic community.

ROLLAND: Well, the Latinos tend to be fairly conservative on some social issues and I think they would be rather liberal on economic issues, so it would be interesting to see how the candidates frame those debates, in what direction they head. Obviously, immigration has a lot to do with that, too. The interesting thing for Jerry Brown is he is not doing as well as Democrats historically have done with people who have typically been fairly gung-ho with Democrats, and that is Latinos. He’s, as Alisa said, that he is leading among Latinos by – but not as much as you might expect a Democrat. Also, I believe he’s not doing quite as well with women as Democrats tend to do. So – And also the other thing that’s not in his favor, getting a little bit away from the next debate here a little bit but all the things that are not in his favor is that we have a Democratic legislature and, I believe, Californians tend to like to have their government, the branches split. They tend to like gridlock. They hate the effects of gridlock but they love creating it.

PENNER: So, okay, well, yeah, I agree with you. California is a blue state, tends to vote Democratic but Republicans are expected to have a great year at the polls this year, Alisa. So what does all that mean for the governor’s race?

BARBA: You know, I think Meg Whitman looks pretty good. I think that she looks – she looks like something new. She looks like a little bit of change. I mean, what she says isn’t particularly new and she’s not really offering anything radically new and different but I think if there’s anything that can characterize the voters right now it’s being sick of the same old – same old thing, and as amusing and funny and down to earth as Jerry Brown appeared to be in that debate, he also – I mean, this man has been in politics in California for 40 years. If anybody represents the political system in California, that’s Jerry Brown. And as David was saying, you know, a Democratic governor, a gridlocked Democratic dominated state legislature, it just looks – it feels like the same old story and Meg Whitman is, you know, goodness, she not only has she not really (sic) ever been in politics before, she’s barely voted. I mean, this is new.

PENNER: Well, and that’s the opinion of Alisa Joyce Barba. Remember, this is an opinion show, and that’s her opinion. And we’re going to get to your opinions, I’m going to take your calls on all of this right after the break. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

PENNER: I’m Gloria Penner and this is the Editors Roundtable. We’re talking about the governor’s race and I’m taking a look at our phone lines. All of them are busy which means that there is, indeed, a great level of interest among at least KPBS listeners to what’s going on in California at the level of the governor, who’s going to be the next governor. And with me to field your calls is Alisa Joyce Barba and Teresa Connors and David Rolland. And because there are so many calls, and I really want to—we want to—hear what it is you have to say, as we go into some of them, will you just make your comments brief and we can get to as many as possible. We’ll start with Frank in El Cajon. Frank, welcome to the Editors Roundtable.

FRANK (Caller, El Cajon): Good morning. Good morning, Gloria, thank you very much.

PENNER: You’re welcome.

FRANK: In response to your question, I would – what I would like to learn from the debates is more about Meg Whitman’s character as a human being. Case in point, is Nicandra Diaz, her homekeeper (sic) for 10 years and whether she knew she was an illegal immigrant or not is really irrelevant. The issue is the way she treated her. She characterized this lady as a member of my family. And how she responded to a member of her family was get out of here. She’s a millionaire. You’d think she would hire an attorney and say, gee, I’m sorry you’re having this problem with immigration, I’ve hired the best immigration attorney in Los Angeles or Sacramento. You sit with him or her and maybe you can solve your problems. That’s how I would treat a member of my family. I’m just shocked at the way she treated what she considered a member of her family.

PENNER: Thank you so much, Frank. That is very interesting. By the way, she’s a billionaire, not a millionaire. I just thought I should let you know that. But…

ROLLAND: So she could hire a really good attorney.

PENNER: Yeah, or a team, I guess. Alex from Rancho Bernardo is next. Alex, you’re on with the editors.

ALEX (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Yeah, I wonder is there any other person besides Meg – Meg and Jerry Brown? Where the third candidate?


ROLLAND: Would that there were.

PENNER: No, there’s a long list of people who are running from a variety of other parties, including the Libertarian Party, the Peace & Freedom Party, American Independent Party. Yeah, there are plenty. Alisa.

BARBA: Well, I, you know, I think most people who have been polled in this race, first of all 18% have not yet decided who they’re going to vote for, which is a really high percentage. And nearly everybody said they weren’t satisfied with either candidate, just like our caller.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you. And, you know, you should have gotten by now your information folder in the mail from the Registrar of Voters and I believe that lists every single person who is running for governor. So that’s important for you to take a look at that, Alex. Okay, Sunni from Mission Hills is with us now. Sunni, you’re on with the editors.

SUNNI (Caller, Mission Hills): Good morning. Thank you very much for taking my call.

PENNER: You’re welcome.

SUNNI: My comment is regarding Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. These two women have been CEOs and they contend that their business acumen will help them in their races and in the seats if they win them, but they were beholden to board of directors and shareholders whereas the governor and a Senator are beholden to the people. And I’ll listen off the air but I’d like to know some comments about why these women are not thinking straight. Thank you very much.

PENNER: Okay, well, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for phone calls so let’s get to our editors and get some of their comments and we’ll start with Teresa.

CONNORS: I think it’s – I mean, I think that’s always been one of the criticisms when you have someone jumping from the business world into the political arena. It’s a whole different orientation and it’s – it takes time to get up to speed and they come in with preconceived notions and they don’t understand that they’re not just answering to a board of directors, they’re answering to their constituents so I can’t speak to how their brains work or why they – their, you know, how they’re going to do their policymaking but it’s a common problem.

PENNER: If they are elected.

CONNORS: If they are elected.

PENNER: Yes. Right, okay. And David.

ROLLAND: Well, and in California those candidates typically don’t do terribly well so I’m not sure if it’s a winning strategy to say, you know, I’m, you know, I’m a megabucks billionaire and I’m going to run this place like a business. Those people, Michael Huffington, Al Checchi, I mean, the landscape is littered with carcasses of people that talk like that.

PENNER: What about Arnold Schwarzenegger?

ROLLAND: Well, he’s a little different. He is a celebrity. That’s a little different than a business leader.

PENNER: Uh, that’s true but – I think he ran not on – or he apparently ran not on celebrity, he said, but on his business sense. Alisa.

BARBA: I don’t think there’s any evidence that just because you come from a business or a corporate background you’re going to fail at politics. I think that there are plenty of examples of people who come in, they’ve run a successful business and they are able to run, you know, run a governor’s office or a senator’s office or whatever office it is. I just – So I don’t think that disqualifies them and, again, I think that what makes them attractive to some voters is the fact that they may or may not have a reputation for efficiency and cost cutting and getting, you know, getting to the bottom line, which I think is what a lot of people would like to see in government.

PENNER: Okay, well, I thank the editors on that subject and I know it’s a subject that we certainly did not exhaust and I’m sure we’ll be talking about the governor’s race again. After all, election day isn’t until November 2nd.

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