A fast-paced, sometimes raucous confrontation between incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown and challenger Neel Kashkari shed some light and more heat on an array of issues facing Californians, but there were no knockout blows and it was uncertain whether the only debate of the campaign two months before Election Day would have an impact on voters.
Brown, 76, a Democrat seeking an unprecedented fourth term, and Kashkari, 41, a Republican and former federal treasury official, met for the hour-long debate in the Sacramento studios of the California Channel, the nonprofit public affairs network. Kashkari questioned Brown’s support of the multibillion-dollar delta water and bullet-train projects, while front-runner Brown assailed Kashkari as a scion of Wall Street.
Brown, departing from his customary rule of not announcing his intentions on legislation, actually made news: He said he backed the controversial statewide ban on plastic bags at stores. “I will probably sign it, yes,” Brown said of the bill that awaits action on his desk.
Facing questions from two reporters and a moderator, both candidates grappled for leverage and mounted attacks, with Kashkari clearly more on the offensive. The candidates were feisty and the pace brisk as they targeted the economy, immigration, education, prison policy and infrastructure.
Kashkari characterized Brown as a captive of organized labor, saying that his decision to appeal a court decision on teacher tenure showed that he “sided with the union bosses. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Brown said Kashkari misstated the record and was beholden to the wealthy. “What a salesman. “I guess you learned that on Wall Street when you sold all that stock that went sour.”
The debate, by agreement of the campaigns, was held in a small studio without an audience. Reporters followed the debate on video screens set up in the lobby of the Senator, an office building across the street from the Capitol. The event was jointly sponsored by the California Channel, Telemundo California, the Los Angeles Times and KQED.