DAVIS, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - In their first face-to-face debate on Tuesday evening, California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman spent most of the time questioning each other's ability to lead the state.

The former eBay CEO and billionaire Whitman said her business experience will help fix the state's flawed government and spur economic growth and job creation.

Brown, the state's attorney general and former governor, said his decades in public service mean he can bring together the state's "dysfunctional" lawmakers.

The debate was held before 750 audience members in the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of University of California Davis.

Brown, a Democrat, told the audience he thought long and hard before deciding to run. In the end, he decided to because he thought his years of political experience would help the state.

He said, "I care a great deal about public service. I think it's honorable."

But his Republican opponent, Whitman, said if the state is going to change direction, they have to do it very differently.

"My approach is anchored in focus. I want to do three things really well to restore the faith of the people in California can have in their government," she said.

She said she wanted to cut government spending, create jobs and fix schools.

The two are in a neck-and-neck race to be California's next governor. With just five weeks until the Nov. 2 election, the latest poll shows Brown with a narrow lead over Whitman.

A poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times and University of Southern California's College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, and released over the weekend, had the attorney general with a 49 to 44 percent advantage over the billionaire. Five percent remained undecided.

There was a great deal of interest in Tuesday's debate, with hundreds of journalists covering the event -- some from as far away as Germany and Japan. Various local media noted a couple hundred protesters also were outside during the matchup.

The meeting, sponsored by Capital Public Radio, NBC's KCRA-TV in Sacramento, the Sacramento Bee and UC Davis, was the first of three debates scheduled before the Nov. 2 election. The next one is scheduled for Saturday in Fresno.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

More News