Jerry Brown wants a debate before California's gubernatorial June primary

California's leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate today said he wants joint televised debates with both Republican frontrunners before the June primary election, and both G.O.P. campaigns said they are at least open to the idea.

Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown addressed the party's state convention in Los Angeles today, and called on Republican primary leaders Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman to agree to jointly debate him three times before the two face each other in the June primary.

Brown said the state's record unemployment, budget and tax crisis and funding cutbacks to schools and universities means ``we cannot delay debating solutions.'' Letters were sent to Poizner and Whitman today, he said, proposing that the unprecedented debates start in three weeks.

``We're open to considering the proposal,'' said Sarah Pompei, spokeswoman for Whitman campaign.

Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen said his boss ``is happy to debate his plan for California against a lying corporate CEO Meg Whitman and special interest career politician Jerry Brown.'' Agen said Poizner would meet the other two ``anywhere, anytime.''

At the Democratic Party convention, Brown said the unusual debates are called for by unusual times. ``Our continuing unemployment and growing state budget crisis are threatening our schools, university, and the very future of our state,'' Brown said in prepared remarks.

``We need immediate action to get California back to work, and these debates will be a good first step.''

Brown proposed that the three-way debates be held in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, be held in evening hours and be telecast statewide. Brown said no pre-primary debates between major-party candidates have ever been held in California.

Although Brown has no threatening opposition in the Democratic Party primary, Poizner and Whitman are ripping each other in radio and television ads prior to the June 8 primary election.