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Brown, Wilson Clash on Crime, Immigration, Taxes : Debate: Challenger discloses daughter's rape in forceful answer to governor's charge that she's soft on crime.

October 16, 1994|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson and challenger Kathleen Brown traded charges of liar and hypocrite Friday in the lone debate of their race for governor, clashing on issues ranging from taxes and immigration to the death penalty.

The most emotional moment of the confrontation went to Brown, who forcefully answered Wilson's charges that she is soft on crime by disclosing that her daughter had been raped.

"You cannot imagine what it's like," she told Wilson, "to be a mother waiting at home late at night for your kids to come home, waiting for your daughter to come home in the evening, and having her come home and comfort her, because she's been raped. . . . So don't question my commitment to be tough on crime."

Wilson responded: "Well, I have to question it, Kathleen, because despite that moving performance, I would say that when you've invoked your father as your role model on the death penalty . . . he granted clemency 27 times. Or excuse me, 23, whatever it was. Your professed political idol, your brther Jerry, appointed Rose Bird. Both Jerry and Rose Bird said what you have said, that they would enforce the death penalty."

Brown reiterated that she would enforce the death penalty--and added that she would ensure that any judges she appointed shared her commitment to enforcing the law.

Wilson, who has focused most of his campaign around his promises to crack down on crime and on Brown's opposition to the death penalty, repeated those themes in the debate. He also blamed Brown for not helping raise funds for his Proposition 172 tax measure last year for local police.

Brown said she had "no doubt" she would be able to enforce the death penalty, then said:

"You know, I have to go back to some of the things that my opponent said a few minutes ago questioning my resolve on crime. You know, Pete, you've misrepresented my positions on crime throughout this campaign. But I have to tell you what I resent most of all is you questioning . . . my commitment to be tough on crime. You cannot possibly imagine what's it's like to be a woman at night, leaving the office, going to your car at night, worrying about your safety.

"And you cannot imagine what it's like to be a mother waiting at home late at night for your kids to come home, waiting for your daughter to come home in the evening and having her come home and comfort her, because she's been raped. . . . You can't understand that. So don't question my commitment to be tough on crime."

Initially, it was unclear whether Brown was speaking hypothetically. But during the post-debate press conference, she explained that one of her daughters had been the victim of date rape.

The debate was aired on 18 television stations in a dozen California cities and the national C-SPAN cable television network. Both the Republican governor and his Democratic challenger spent most of their time repeating themes from their competing TV commercials.

Neither candidate committed any major gaffes. Both articulated clear, strongly worded attacks and sharp rebuttals.

"Four years ago when he ran for governor, he lied to you. He lied to you about raising taxes," Brown said, describing Wilson as "a-tax-and-spend Republican" for the $7 billion in tax increases Wilson signed to help close an inherited $14-billion deficit.

"Don't read his lips. Read my plan," Brown said, referring to the 62-page booklet, "Building a New California: The Kathleen Brown Economic Plan," which her campaign published recently.

"Kathleen, you lack the courage to be governor, because you fail to say where the budget is going to be cut," Wilson replied, saying it was "the height of hypocrisy" for Brown to criticize tax increases that he said Brown "warmly congratulated me" for enacting three years ago.

Attacking the Brown booklet, Wilson added, "The dirty little secret is, despite the rhetoric, it is a tax increase plan."

Brown replied that her plan would find funds to put more police on the streets and increase school funds by cutting $5 billion in unspecified "wasteful government programs."

"My mission is to give the taxpayers a better quality product at lower cost," she said.

They also exchanged sharp barbs over the Proposition 187 anti-immigration initiative, which Wilson supports and Brown opposes.

"Proposition 187 is going to make a bad situation worse. (Illegal immigration) must be dealt with at the border and at the workplace," Brown said, charging that Wilson was exploiting the immigration issue for political purposes and that as a U.S. senator he was responsible for federal policies he now blames for California's immigration problem.

"He's got fingerprints all over the illegal immigration problem. As a senator, he opened up the floodgates to 1.3 million illegal immigrants," Brown charged.

Wilson replied that it was then-Congressman Leon Panetta, now President Clinton's chief of staff, not him, who authored amendments to federal immigration laws which are causing much of today's immigration problem, and he defended harsh provisions of Proposition 187 such as kicking illegal immigrant children out of California schools.

"I make no apology for putting California children first. Those children in the U.S. illegally deserve an education, but that education is due to them not from the government in Sacramento, or in Washington, but in the nation from which they came," Wilson said.

"The federal government is foisting on us costs we cannot afford. It is wrong for Californians to have to pay those costs," Wilson said.

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