SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) -- California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was met with boos when she told an audience of 14,000 Tuesday night she wouldn't end her use of negative campaign ads.

Whitman, along with her Democratic opponent Jerry Brown and current California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, appeared at the annual Women's Conference in Long Beach. It was the last planned face-to-face meeting of the two before next Tuesday's election.

During the event, both Whitman and Brown were asked by NBC journalist Matt Lauer, who was serving as the moderator, if they would take down the negative advertisements that are currently saturating the state's airwaves.

"With one week left, would either of you or both of you be willing to make a pledge that you would end the negativity?" Lauer asked.

Brown agreed to the proposal if Whitman agreed to do so first.

"If she takes her negative ads -- as reasonably defined -- I'll take mine off, no question. If we do it together, no problem. I pledge that right now," he said.

In response, Whitman first tried to differentiate between personal attacks and record attacks. But Lauer continued to press her.

"I will take down any ads that could be even remotely be construed as a personal attack, but I don't think we can take down ads that talk about where Gov. Brown stands on the issues," Whitman said, as the audience booed.

Whitman's campaign issued a follow-up statement after the event:

"Our campaign is going to continue to advertise Meg's positive vision for California, while also running fair and truthful ads that highlight Jerry Brown's long record on the issues," campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said in a statement.

"For more than six months, the Brown campaign and its allies in the public employee unions have been running a negative campaign against Meg Whitman. Most of their advertising attacks have focused on character assassination, avoiding any real discussion of the important issues that are of interest to Californians.

"In July, Jerry Brown's campaign manager foreshadowed the strategy behind their attack-style campaign and declared a 'war on character issues.' A declaration that came just months after Jerry Brown was videotaped behind closed doors making pleas to his special interest allies in Sacramento to 'attack' so he could be 'the nice guy.'

Pompei continued, "California's voters deserve better. Jerry Brown can keep trying to fool the public that he's 'the nice guy' but in reality he's a cynical career politician running a cynical and negative campaign. The Brown campaign should pull its misleading character attacks on Meg Whitman and instead use its advertising to conduct an honest debate on the issues, something that has been missing from the Brown campaign for months."

Brown reaffirmed his own promise shortly after the event, saying, "I pledge to pull my negative ads off the air immediately and only run positive ads through Election Day if Meg Whitman agrees to do the same."

The results of a public Suffolk University poll released Tuesday show Brown leading Whitman 48 to 45 percent among the 18 percent of respondents who said they voted early.

According to the survey, Brown is buoyed by urban support in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, which are his strongest regions, and by younger voters ages 18 to 44. Despite Whitman being a female candidate, Brown also has firm control of the female vote, leading by 21 points.

Whitman led among men, the Orange County/San Diego area, and the North/Central California area, the poll showed.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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