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State Races: Brown vs. Whitman, Propositions 22, 25, 26

State Races: Brown vs. Whitman, Propositions 22, 25, 26
How will voters respond to the heated gubernatorial race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown? What impact could Propositions 22, 25 and 26 have on the structure of state government? We discuss how the upcoming election could change California.

How will voters respond to the heated gubernatorial race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown? What impact could Propositions 22, 25 and 26 have on the structure of state government? We discuss whether these contests could bring significant reforms to Sacramento.


David King, editor and founder of


Michael Smolens, government editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune

John Warren, editor and publisher of San Diego Voice & Viewpoint

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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.

So as we go into that part of it, I'd like to know who are you supporting for governor, and have you chosen that particular candidate? Give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. John, for a long while, Meg Whitman was close to brown in the poles, had spent millions and millions ads in the last days, her numbers dropped, she's behind by 13 points. Can you pinpoint what has slowed her campaign?

JOHN WARREN: I think three things. Number one, it's suggested that the issue over the maid that worked for her for nine years, her tearful encounter or revelations about how she was terminated suggested that that really cut into the Latino vote, and the numbers for Whitman went down tremendously. But I also think there are other issues here. Number one, people have a tendency historically when there's a crisis to stick with that which they know. And I think that the closer it gets, the better it becomes for brown. Whitman was making the statement at one point how great California was when she moved here. And all of the goodness and everything what she wanted to have restored of then brown just came in and said, well, who was govern when you moved here? Obviously he was governor at the time. So I think that what's happening here is he is going to grow not because people are in love with Jerry Brown. Many people feel we don't have a choice in this race. But it's gonna grow because it looks like she's trying to buy it, and people have not historically wanted to see leadership positions in this country purchased.

GLORIA PENNER: Michael, what we've been hearing lately is that the negative ads that both candidates have been running may have had a negative influence on their campaigns. Have you seen that the cob tent of advertising in both these campaigns has worked to the disadvantage of either campaign.


MICHAEL SMOLLENS: I think you'd have to say Whitman because she's losing in all poles and by considerable margin. I think too much has been made out of the negative campaigning. That's part of politics, it's been a part of American politics since the birth of the nation. It gets nastier sometimes and not nastier other times. But I think people are making up their minds on other issues like John said. The whole thing about the housekeeper just took the wind out of her campaign. I mean it just -- suddenly her talks points were done, and she had to deal with that for way too long. And people are resenting the fact that she's spending a lot of money. As he said, self funded candidates have generally not done well in California and elsewhere. Upon but finally, I just think that notes in he that people view Jerry Brown as a staid hand, but I think they do acknowledge the guy knows government. He's been a governor, he's been a mayor. He's currently the attorney general. And we do have a governor who came into office with a whole lot of celebrity, speaking a lot of he same kind of language that Meg Whitman has, and things haven't worked out. You can say it's the political structure of Sacramento that's dysfunctional, but regardless of with whether it's Schwartzenegger's fault, it's been a disastrous couple terms, and I don't think people are ready to take another change on someone who has no political experience. Let's not forget, she has never run for political office before, not city council, not city auditor, and this is a tough place to start.

GLORIA PENNER: She also doesn't have a great voting record; is that right.

MICHAEL SMOLLENS: True, let's not forget she's been enormously successful in the private sector, and that brings a lot to the table. And a lot of people are impressed by that. And that's I think helped boost her this far, but now it seems like things have broken Brown's way.

GLORIA PENNER: Let's talk about that. Upon what both candidates bring to the table, John -- not John. David, what would you say is the essential difference between how the candidates would revive California? Because that's what we're all worried about, revenue's down, services are cut, the future's uncertain. The governor and the legislature have miserable approval numbers. Hope reigns supremes, and we're looking to one of these candidates to rescue us.

DAVID KING: That's been one of the unfortunate things about this campaign. Neither candidate has delivered a clear message as to exactly what they would do to get California out of this rut. I think the voters perceive Jerry Brown as a noncommodity, but he's also kind of a nonoddity as well. He's kind of an unusual character. He's run this as being to the more of the center, Jerry Brown, he doesn't portray himself as a state your full name liberal. And Meg Whitman's efforts to say, you're just gonna be the tool of the public employees' unions, it never really caught on, and not much that Meg Whitman has resonated. She hasn't really been able to connect with people.

GLORIA PENNER: We have just minutes left. But I want Jacky from La Jolla to have a chance to say something. Oh, Jacky, I'm sorry. She is gone. Okay. Well, at this point then, just quickly as I said, people are really unhappy with the legislature. There's been proposition on the ballot, it's proposition 25 that would allow the budget to be passed with a simple majority. And also dock the pay permanently of the legislators if they don't get a budget out on time for every day that they don't. This is proposition 25. It has considerable support among those people who say that two thirds vote to pass a budget just ain't workin'. What do you say, John?

JOHN WARREN: Well, here's the quick problem in a nutshell. The leadership of the legislature is democratic. And if we go to this simple majority, it means that the Democrats will then be able to push through the kind of tax increases that they were not able to get under two thirds that required Republican participation. So the appeal to the public right now is the denial of pay for members during the period in which the budget is delayed. And this is where the conflict comes with the public.


DAVID KING: Well, the suspension of pay, good God, if that's not a red herring. It's a proposition to really make the budgeting process run by a single party. And that's gonna have ramifications. There's a debate about whether or not it would allow the legislature to raise taxes and there'll be lawsuits over that if prop 25 passes. It's -- the suspension of pay is just a nonissue.

GLORIA PENNER: And Michael, last comment on this? Proposition 25? If we redistrict, if we change -- we are gonna change the way we do redistricting, maybe we won't have a clearly big majority of Democrats in the state legislature.

MICHAEL SMOLLENS: You will have a majority one way or another. And I think that part of it -- most people are just viewing, I don't know if I want to say common sense, but we're what? One of three states that have I super majority requirement for air billion. And most people kind of believe majority rules. There's certainly the strong arguments for safeguards to have the minority be able to hold things up till things are more balanced in their view. But I think given the disfunction of the state and the lack of I budget on time, that people are looking to this as a solution.

GLORIA PENNER: I want to thank Michael Smollens and John Warren and David Kind as we sprinted to the finish line. I thank our callers and our listeners. This has been the Editors' Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.