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Brown, Wilson Camps Agree: No Debates : Politics: Each side blames the other for the breakdown. Governor's final offer to meet on PBS telecast was rejected by rival as being insincere.

October 01, 1994|BILL STALL and DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

There will be no debates between the candidates for governor this year, spokesmen for both campaigns said Friday.

Earlier in the day, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson issued an ultimatum to Democratic opponent Kathleen Brown to debate him Oct. 14 in Sacramento or not at all. Brown rejected the offer.

Each side blamed the other for the acrimonious breakdown of debate negotiations that had stretched over more than two months, though it became clear in recent weeks that Wilson, holding an edge in the polls, has played the incumbent's strategy by dragging out negotiations and seeking to limit the number of debates.

Wilson had once expressed a desire for "multiple debates" and Brown vowed to debate Wilson "anytime, anywhere."

Wilson campaign aides proposed Friday that they meet for one hour, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the studios of KVIE, Sacramento's public television station. The remarks would be carried live on PBS stations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego and taped for later broadcast in other, smaller public broadcasting markets.

Brown denounced the offer as insincere and demanded that they debate over a statewide commercial network in prime time.

"In a transparent effort to avoid debating at all, you pronounce that you will debate only in a small market, non-statewide broadcast debate that for most of the people of California will mean no debate at all," Brown said in a letter faxed to Wilson's campaign office.

Brown proposed that their futile dispute over debate arrangements be mediated by the League of Women Voters. The Wilson camp said no.

"If Kathleen Brown wants to debate, she will sign on the dotted line," said Wilson campaign spokesman Dan Schnur.

Brown aides said she would not sign, and the issue was settled.

Most political experts believed that it was to Brown's advantage to debate Wilson, to get exposure to many California voters who do not know much about her.

However, Steven M. Glaser, senior adviser to Brown, sounded as if he believed that Friday's impasse was a victory for the Brown campaign.

"We think Pete Wilson's handed us an issue that will haunt him in the final six weeks of the campaign," he said.

The Wilson campaign framed its ultimatum to make it sound as if the impasse was her fault.

"If Kathleen Brown continues to balk and drag her heels on the KVIE invitation, there will be no television debate in this year's gubernatorial election," said Vigo G. (Skip) Nielsen Jr., Wilson's debate negotiator, in a letter to those entities that had proposed hosting Wilson-Brown debates.

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