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Big week ahead in California politics

California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (L) and Meg Whitman (R).
California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown (L) and Meg Whitman (R).
Justin Sullivan & Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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The week features three political debates. Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown face off for first time in their race for governor Tuesday night. Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and her Republican challenger Carly Fiorina debate Wednesday at KPCC.

Expect Whitman and Brown to play it safe in their first debate, USC political scientist Sherri Bebitch Jeffe said.

“What we have to expect from this debate is that both Whitman and Brown glide through it, without any stumbles, without any gaffes."

Whitman, the former head of eBay and a political novice, held up well against her Republican primary opponent Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

But Poizner is no Jerry Brown.

Brown, the current California Attorney General, is a former governor who’s run for president and debated hundreds of times. Jeffe said Brown, who is known for gaffes, needs to watch for complacency.

“That could be a problem for Jerry Brown who probably thinks he could handle a political debate in his sleep, while juggling plates.”

Sacramento Bee Political Columnist Dan Walters said the debate is like any other.

“Each one is going to try to do something that will resonate beyond the debate night – that the media will pick up on," Walters said. "Somebody will make a mistake, somebody will say something stupid, or somebody will score some telling point and then they will try to exploit that.”

If they don’t succeed, they’ll have other opportunities to try. Tuesday's debate at UC Davis is followed by one Saturday in Fresno and another three days later in San Rafael.

That's not the case in the Boxer-Fiorina debate scheduled on KPCC Wednesday afternoon. The two debated once before, and plan no more.

That debate is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Patt Morrison.