ABC News’ David Wright reports: The two candidates for California governor sparred over taxes, illegal immigration, and whether it’s fair game to describe one another as “whores” in their final campaign debate at Dominican College in the San Francisco Bay Area. The race pits a perennial politician against a billionaire businesswoman. Democrat Jerry Brown is the state’s attorney general, as well as a former governor, a former mayor, and the son of a former governor. Republican Meg Whitman is the former CEO of E-Bay. Tonight the moderator, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, held Brown to account for a comment made by one of his aides. After the candidate thought he hung up the phone after leaving a voice mail message for a union leader whose endorsement he sought, one of his aides was overheard suggesting they call Whitman a “whore.” “We’ve heard no outrage from you,” said Brokaw, noting that the harsh language “to many people is the same as describing an African American using the N-word.” “I do not agree with that comparison,” Brown said. Some audience members booed. Whitman pounced. ”It’s not just me, it’s the people of California that deserve better than slurs,” she said. Brown said he’s sorry the incident was made public, suggesting someone broke the law by releasing the recording from a call he made 5 weeks ago. But Brown did not exactly retract the sentiment behind the word.
Whitman has broken all spending records for a self-financed campaign — spending more than $120 million out of her own pocket. She defended that largesse, claiming it means she would not be beholden to special interests. “I am spending my own money in this race,” she said. ”But I will not owe anything to anybody.” But Brown questioned Whitman’s independence, saying she has also raised money from business executives who would benefit from the tax cuts she proposes. Brokaw also held Whitman to account for her proposal to hold “businesses and households to account” for hiring undocumented workers given that it recently came to light that she employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny and housekeeper for 9 years. “If you couldn’t tell you were employing an undocumented immigrant in your own home, how can you expect businesses to figure it out?” Brokaw asked. Whitman insisted she trusted an employment agency to vet the nanny and insisted they employed Nicky Diaz in good faith until the day they learned otherwise. She said businesses need an e-verify program to help them ensure that the workers they employ belong in this country.
Brown dismissed the nanny issue as a “sorry tale,” but couldn’t resist swiping Whitman for employing “foreign serfs” and for not hiring an immigration lawyer to help Diaz when the going got rough. On some issues the candidates agree. Both oppose Proposition 19, the provision on the November ballot that would essentially legalize marijuana in California. Both said they continue to support Prop 13, the decades old anti-tax initiative that has held down property taxes for many longtime homeowners while pushing the burden onto newcomers and causing deep problems in the effort to balance the state budget. Both support the state’s Three Strikes law, the anti-crime measure that imposes mandatory life prison terms for felons convicted of a third felony offense. Recent polls show Brown slightly ahead of Whitman. But surveys show as many as 20% of the voters are undecided so the race is still up for grabs.