Highlights from Brown, Whitman debate for California governor

In their second face-to-face debate, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown covered a range of issues, including immigration, health care, and education. The race is too close to call.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman shakes hands with her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, before the start of their second debate held at California State University, Fresno in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Oct. 2.

Here are some of the issues that arose during Saturday's Univision-sponsored gubernatorial debate that showed a clear contrast between Democratic candidate Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman.

Health care reforms:

The candidates differ greatly on federal health care reforms signed into law earlier this year. Whitman says the law will hurt the economy and should be repealed, while Brown defended it as the best avenue for the uninsured.

"That's the only game in town right now," Brown said. "There will be some problems like, for example, it needs more cost control. But it is a framework to bring in children and to bring in people who have no other way of getting their health insurance."

Whitman focused on the costs to small businesses of implementing the health care overall.

"The problem is Obamacare is going to make it worse for small businesses, not better…. So at a time when we need to make it easier for small businesses, we're going to make it harder.

"We should open up California to more insurance competition so there's more choices for the people, more ability to buy plans. Second, we should make sure that we eliminate the fraud in Medicare and Medi-Cal."

Arizona's immigration law, which requires law enforcement officers to check identification papers if they suspect someone is in the country illegally:

Whitman has said she supports Arizona's right to enact the law for its state but not for California.

"I have been entirely consistent on my immigration stance from day one of this campaign…. I have said I was not for the Arizona law. What is true is the federal government has abdicated their responsibility, and I said I thought it was a state's rights issue to decide what each state thought was important for them. And I have said that I do not think the Arizona law was correct in California. If such a law came to me, I would veto it."

Brown said Whitman was trying to have it both ways.

"As far as the Arizona law, she's says the Arizona law is OK for Arizona. So she's for the Arizona law for the people who are suffering right now, the people who are cleaners in Arizona. Here in California, where they're not proposing the law, she says it doesn't apply here."

On giving those in the country illegally a pathway to citizenship:

"Illegal immigration is just that, it is illegal. And we need to make sure we have the workers that the economy needs to grow and thrive," Whitman said. "My solution, in part, to that is a temporary guest-worker program. One of the great things about America and California is that we live in a rule of law. There is a judicial process, and we have to abide by that. So I think the best thing that I can do to help the Latino community in California is as first and foremost, as I said, jobs."

Brown said it was wrong for the U.S. to lure temporary workers into the country and then send them home when they are no longer needed.

"This is about human beings. And you don't bring in temporary workers and then when you've used them up, you send them back…. You don't just bring in semi-serfs and say, 'Do our dirty work,' and then we're finished with you like an orange and just throw it away. That's after you've squeezed it. That's not right."

California Dream Act:

Asked by a student at California State University, Fresno, if they would favor giving citizenship to certain U.S. high school graduates who were brought into the country illegally as children, the candidates disagreed.

Brown said he supports federal legislation that would allow young people to become legal U.S. residents after spending two years in college or the military. At the same time, Brown said he would sign state legislation that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to receive financial aid from California's public universities and colleges. Schwarzenegger recently vetoed such a bill.

"Ms. Whitman goes beyond opposing the Dream Act," Brown said. "She wants to kick you out of the school because you are not documented, and that is wrong – morally and humanly."

Whitman said the act wasn't fair to legal residents.

"Here is the challenge we face: Our resources are scarce. We are in terrible economic times and slots have been eliminated at the California State University system – I think they're down by 40,000 students. Same is true at the … the University of California system. Programs have been cut, and California citizens have been denied admission to these universities and I don't think it's fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher universities and favor undocumenteds.

"This is a very tough situation, but I don't think it's fair to the people who are here in California legally. So I would not be for the California Dream Act and for the federal Dream Act. It is only a partial solution to a challenging situation, and I don't think we can carve out a group of illegal immigrants and get them a path to citizenship when we haven't sorted out control of our borders and getting our arms around illegal immigration."

On cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants:

Whitman has said consistently on the campaign trail that employers should be fined.

"We need a better e-verify system, three strikes and you're out, you get fined, you lose your business license…. If we do not hold employers accountable, we will never get our arms around this very challenging problem.

"And then of course I think we have to eliminate sanctuary cities, and we have to have a temporary guest-worker program, that's a very important part of the entire immigration question. But there is no question that our immigration system is broken."

Brown, the state attorney general, says punishing employers on this issue is not the state's job.

"I strongly oppose state police, state sheriff's, the attorney general's office, going after undocumented people. That is not the business of the state at all and every police chief that I know is opposed to that…. "This is a federal government problem, and the federal government ought to do something about it."

Brown's role in the performance of Oakland's public schools while he was mayor of the city:

Brown was asked to defend the troubled Oakland school system, which Whitman has criticized often on the campaign trail as evidence that Brown will not fulfill his campaign promises. She has asserted that Brown campaigned as mayor to fix education but that the state was forced to take over the city's schools.

"Jerry Brown's record on the K-through-12 education system is abysmal. He ran for mayor of Oakland as the education mayor. Three years later, the state took over the Oakland public school systems because they were $100 million in debt. And he has not accepted accountability for this."

Brown responded that the city's school board controls the public school system and said he was the one who asked the state to take it over: "The mayor of any city, particularly Oakland, has no power over them. I called those people."

He then noted what he said was one of his educational accomplishments.

"When I ran for mayor, I said I want to create charter schools, encourage them and then it might put competitive pressure on the main school system. And you know what, the charter schools went from three to 21 during my eight years as mayor, and I am proud of that."

Three qualities about the other candidate that would help him or her be an effective governor:

"This is going to be tough for both of us, I think. She's smart and she's pretty tough, I can tell you that because I've been campaigning against her for several months. And, um, she's had a pretty interesting set of job experiences." – Brown.

"I think he cares a great deal about California, he has had a long career in public service, and I really like his choice of wife. I'm a big fan of Anne Gust." – Whitman.

Associated Press Writers Garance Burke and Samantha Young contributed to this report.

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