Meg Whitman And Jerry Brown Spar Over Pot, Palin And Prop. 23 (VIDEO)

California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman met for their final debate on Tuesday night, engaging in a fiery, free-wheeling exchange touching on unions, climate change, marriage equality, legalization of marijuana, and other hot controversies in the race. Unlike in other debates with stricter formats, moderator Tom Brokaw allowed the candidates to frequently jump in and respond to each other.

TAXES: The debate became aggressive early on, with Brown hitting his Republican opponent for wanting to eliminate the capital gains tax, which he said would "compound our budget deficit and our tax unfairness." "That capital gains tax mostly benefits millionaires and billionaires and would add $5-10 billion to our budget deficit, and a lot of that money would have to come from public schools, and I just don't believe that's right," he said. Whitman called Brown "just wrong," calling capital gains a "tax on jobs, it's a tax on job creators, and it's a tax on investment." She added that tax cuts are a "big part" of her recovery plan. "Eighty-two percent of the benefit of this tax break will go to people making $500,000 a year, and there's not one guarantee they'll spend that money in California," responded Brown. "And Ms. Whitman, I'd like to ask you: How much money would you save if these tax breaks were in effect this year or last year?" With the crowd now visibly excited, Whitman then said, "I'm an investor, and investors will benefit from this, but so will job creators. And I was a job creator."



SPENDING: Whitman defended the more than $100 million she has spent on her campaign. Brokaw said she had every right to spend it, but added, "I think a lot of people wonder if you were so interested in the state of California, why you didn't vote all those years, or get involved in state commissions, or get involved in other parts of political life." Whitman hit on the union spending on behalf of her Democratic opponent and said spending her own money has given her "independence" from special interests.




Both Brown and Whitman said they oppose Prop. 23, which would suspend some of California's unprecedented clean air and renewable energy legislation. Whitman, however, said she supports a one-year moratorium on the implementation of AB 32, which "was designed to bring California into near compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, requiring the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020." Prop. 23 would effectively repeal AB 32. Brown said he supported AB 32, and called out Texas oil companies for backing the proposition. "The people who are crying are two oil companies in Texas and a big petrochemical conglomerate in the Midwest," said Brown. "They're putting up all the money. Yeah, they don't want to deal with it. One of them said, 'My God, they're going to use less oil in California. You bet. We're going to use more California sun and more California wind, and we'll get it done."



LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA: Whitman said she is against Prop. 19, which would legalize marijuana. She cited the fact that "every single law enforcement official in this entire state" opposes the measure, even though many such officials actually support it.



SLUR CONTROVERSY: Brokaw asked Brown about the incident involving one of his campaign aides referring to Whitman as a "whore." Brokaw said that they had heard "no outrage" from the candidate himself on the matter, even though, he said, many women consider the term as offensive as calling an African-American the n-word. Brown said he disagreed with that comparison, saying it was a "five-week-old, private conversation," while Whitman went "Oohh." He then said, "It's unfortunate, I'm sorry it happened, and I apologize." "It's not just me," replied Whitman. "It's (the) people of California who deserve better than slurs and personal attacks." Brown then asked Whitman whether she's chastised her campaign chair Pete Wilson, who once used the term to refer to Congress. Whitman said it was a completely different issue.



MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Whitman said that she is opposed to marriage equality, believing the institution should be between "a man and a woman." She said, however, that she favors civil union laws. She criticized Brown, as attorney general, for not defending Prop. 8 in court. Brown said that he took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and because he believes the 14th amendment bans discrimination against same-sex couples, he is doing his duty.



OBAMA/PALIN: When asked how President Obama is doing, Brown vigorously defended him. He said he was "happy" the President was coming to campaign for him, adding, "I think, in a tough time, this man has created the stimulus, he helped stabilize our banks. We've got a health care plan people that since Harry Truman have been trying to get enacted -- not perfect, got a lot of work on it. I think he's facing tremendous and unreasoned opposition by a small faction of that Republican people in Washington. So I think Obama's doing a good job." Whitman, however, wasn't as enthusiastic about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who will be in California on Saturday. When asked whether she would seek her advice, Whitman simply said, "She has a real following in the Republican Party, but you know that I have actually supported other presidential nominees in our party." She said that on Saturday, she will be out talking to voters.