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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : Governor's Race : The Issues

October 30, 1994

A look at the key issues in the race for the governor:

Immigration

Illegal immigration was seized on early by Wilson as a central issue of his reelection, and it has been a key battleground of the gubernatorial campaign. The incumbent governor supports Proposition 187, which would cut off non-emergency health care and public education from illegal immigrants, and would require medical and educational personnel to report those suspected of being in the country illegally. Brown opposes the proposition, arguing that it would throw hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren into the streets, spread disease and turn public officials into snitches.

Wilson's positions are based on his theory that illegal immigrants are drawn to California by free public services. He favors an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would deny automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in this country.

Brown believes that illegal immigrants are drawn to the state because of jobs. She would strengthen penalties against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and favors the creation of a tamper-proof Social Security card that all employees would have to present while seeking work.

Wilson has waged a much-publicized effort to shame President Clinton into paying for illegal immigrants, writing full-page advertisements in major newspapers and running ads asking people to call the White House to complain about immigration.

Brown has worked with the Clinton Administration to increase federal funding for combatting illegal immigration, and has accused Wilson of hypocrisy for his current handling of the issue. She argues that while he was in the U.S. Senate from 1982-90, Wilson was an advocate for the agriculture industry's desire to increase the number of farm workers allowed over the border.

Crime

With crime at the top of the list of voter concerns, both candidates have portrayed themselves as tough on criminals. Both have backed stricter sentencing laws, tougher sanctions for parole violators and increased crime prevention efforts.

Wilson this year signed into law a bevy of tougher sentencing provisions, all of which Brown supports. Wilson wants even tougher laws and proposes to expand the death penalty to cover carjackers and drive-by shooters who kill their victims. Brown opposes that idea but says she would put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.

Rather than focus on the death penalty, which Brown says is more important to political campaigning than to criminal justice policy, the Democrat says she would try to prevent youths from committing their first crime and promises swift and certain punishment to those who do.

Brown has criticized Wilson for his handling of the parole system and said she would order all ex-convicts who violate the conditions of their parole returned to prison pending a hearing to decide their fate.

Wilson says the parole issue would be moot if convicts were kept in prison longer in the first place. Both candidates supported the new "three strikes" sentencing law, though Brown has said she preferred a version that focused on violent criminals.

Death Penalty

Capital punishment has been the focus of much attention in the governor's race, with Wilson clamoring that Brown will not enforce the death penalty--at least not as avidly as he--and Brown insisting she will.

The two candidates differ in their personal views about capital punishment. Wilson supports it personally, and argues that only a person who believes as he does can be counted on to enforce it. Both candidates insist that they will appoint judges who will enforce the death penalty.

Brown sought to avoid explaining her views for months, then in June said she personally opposed it for religious reasons and because she recalled that her father, former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr., agonized over the issue when he was in office.

Wilson, who has signed execution orders for two men during his governorship, spent much of the campaign raising the specter that Brown would handle capital punishment like her brother, Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. He named Rose Elizabeth Bird as chief justice of the California Supreme Court, a post from which Bird cast aside almost 60 death sentences.

State Finances

On fiscal issues Brown has little record, while Wilson has renounced some of the key actions he took as governor. Wilson, in his first year, agreed to raise taxes by more than $7 billion, but now, as a candidate, he says higher taxes are a drag on the state's economy. Brown criticizes Wilson for raising taxes but applauded him when he did it and says now she has no plans to undo his action.

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