Reporting from — Their general election battle fully engaged, the candidates for governor bickered Thursday about who has more specific proposals to turn around the state's economy, with Meg Whitman pointing to her glossy 48-page policy booklet and Jerry Brown citing his decades in elected office.
"She doesn't have a plan," said Brown, who has been urging Whitman to commit to 10 town halls around the state. "She has a pamphlet. And most of it is pictures."
Whitman countered that her plan is "incredibly detailed," while Brown has thus far failed to offer anything in the way of specifics.
"He wants to do 10 debates, I suggest he get 10 ideas on how to fix California out there," she said.
Their dispute, played out in separate events, came amid other indications that there will be no respite between Tuesday's primary and the November general election.
Whitman began airing her first general-election television ad on Thursday, a 30-second spot about jobs that does not mention Brown. Brown's labor allies plan to start airing an ad next week about Whitman's spotty voting record.
The Republican nominee also announced that she has agreed to a proposal for an October debate between the two candidates.
"Bring it on. I accepted that debate invitation because I can't wait to talk specifics with Jerry Brown," Whitman said.
Brown's campaign later said the former governor accepted the invitation but wanted to move the timing up to July or August — citing Whitman's comment that she couldn't wait to debate.
The candidates' events took place in the Bay Area; Whitman hosted a homecoming rally at the San Jose Tech Museum and Brown toured a solar-panel manufacturer in Fremont. Both areas are Democratic strongholds, but Whitman's campaign hopes the former EBay chief will be able to peel away moderates and independents in the region.
The San Jose event was Whitman's first solo campaign rally since winning the party nomination Tuesday, and she chose to come back to the venue where she announced her run for governor. She reflected about her contentious primary battle with Steve Poizner.
"This is where it began on Feb. 9, 2009, almost 15 months ago. It feels like it's endless summer," she said. "I am so excited about where we are. It was a tough battle, wasn't it? The good news is I am now battletested."
Speaking to reporters after the rally, Whitman brushed aside criticism by Democrats that the state has already tried electing a non-politician as governor— Arnold Schwarzenegger — with less than stellar results.
"We haven't tried someone whose knowledge of the economy is above anyone in this race. This is my wheelhouse," she said. "I am excited about bringing a completely outside perspective that's been born out of 30 years in business leading large organizations, doing more with less, setting a focused priority."
Brown toured the solar panel plant with other statewide Democratic nominees, who characterized him as an innovator who had encouraged the state's thriving green tech industry.
Brown repeatedly ridiculed the way Whitman, a billionaire who has invested at least $71 million into her campaign, has run her election effort. He also questioned her fitness for the governor's office.
"The path forward is going to be honesty, not pamphlets and consultants' scripted propaganda, but straight talk," Brown said. "Not flying around in private planes in a bubble of security and people protecting you every moment."
Brown called Whitman "probably the most wasteful campaign spender we have ever seen in the history of California, if not America." He suggested that did not bode well for the state's money, were she to manage it.
"How you treat your own money is how you treat taxpayer money," said Brown, who as governor famously spurned the governor's mansion for a modest apartment near the Capitol and sold off the limousines in favor of a Plymouth.
The candidates in the other major race in California, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and Republican former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina, were largely quiet Thursday. Fiorina was still facing ridicule for several controversial comments that were caught on a live microphone prior to a television interview Wednesday.
The candidate, talking to an aide and unaware that her microphone was on, questioned Whitman's campaign strategy of appearing on Sean Hannity's television show on Fox News. She also ridiculed Boxer's haircut.
Fiorina apologized to Hannity and to Whitman, who was gracious when asked by reporters about the dustup.
"You know what, things happen early morning on TV," Whitman said. "Having been now, you know, in the race for 15, 16 months, you can actually see how it happens. Carly and I are good friends and I'm looking forward to running with her."
But she seemed less enthusiastic about her ticket mate compared to earlier in the week, when she called Fiorina "fabulous." On Thursday, that line in her speech changed, and Whitman instead gave Fiorina a "quick nod."