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Not your typical California election

The state hasn't had competitive races for governor and U.S. Senate in years. That's not the case with the Brown-Whitman and Boxer-Fiorina contests.

October 10, 2010|By Cathleen Decker, Los Angeles Times

For Democrats, the opponents' business backgrounds have been used to paint the Republicans as rapacious elites. In perhaps the sharpest Democratic ad of the campaign, Boxer accused Fiorina of laying off 30,000 workers to enrich herself. The ad showed footage from a 2008 interview in which Fiorina defended shipping jobs overseas.

"When you're talking about massive layoffs, which we did … perhaps the work needs to be done somewhere else?" Fiorina was shown saying in the ad. To her detriment, Fiorina remained unknown to many voters despite attempts at gaining notice through vehicles such as an ad featuring red-eyed humanoid sheep.

Brown took after Whitman in his most recent ad, which recapped her receipt of early stock offerings from Goldman Sachs. Whitman was forced to return almost $1.8 million of her profits to EBay stockholders as part of a lawsuit settlement.

"We're choosing a governor; shouldn't character matter?" Brown's ad asked. In debates, he relentlessly attacked Whitman as someone whose main fiscal goal was eradicating the capital gains tax to benefit herself and her fellow billionaires and millionaires.

As the campaign closed, the biggest danger to Whitman was that she would become an amalgam of the criticisms thrown at her — a rich first-time candidate who did not vote most of her life, who secretly settled with a former employee who alleged age discrimination and with another whom she shoved, and that she treated her longtime illegal immigrant housekeeper coldly when the woman asked for help gaining legal status. The housekeeper appeared at three news conferences in recent days with attorney Gloria Allred.

"Fighting with Gloria Allred … is not where the Whitman campaign wants to be" at this stage of the campaign, said Republican consultant Mike Madrid, who said Whitman had to avoid coming to represent "the entitlement of the wealthy" in voters' minds.

Brown and Boxer had their own problems, however, on which Republicans sought mightily to capitalize. In a year notable for voters tossing out veterans, the Democratic duo were as veteran as they come, and Republicans fought to cast them as overstaying their welcome.

Brown, who first served as governor at age 36, half his lifetime ago, was captured in Whitman ads as a relic from the '60s, forever feeding at the public trough and bent on raising taxes rather making government work. Brown also made his own faux pas, comparing Whitman's campaign to a Nazi propagandist's and insulting former Democratic president Bill Clinton, as Whitman worked to make him appear undisciplined and out of touch.

"You know what? I come from the real world where you actually have to get things done," Whitman said during their second debate.

Boxer, too, came in for mocking from Fiorina, who cast her as a do-nothing senator who pushed through trillions of dollars in tax hikes and defined extremism.

"I'll really go to work to end the arrogance in Washington," Fiorina said, meaning Boxer herself.

In the end, by the time the polls close Nov. 2, voters will have decided.

cathleen.decker@latimes.com

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