Politics

California governor debate gets 'spirited' as Kashkari, Brown face off

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, listens as Republican challenger Neel Kashkari speaks during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Thursday's debate is likely to be the only one of the general election.
Gov. Jerry Brown, left, listens as Republican challenger Neel Kashkari speaks during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Thursday's debate is likely to be the only one of the general election.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican challenger, Neel Kashkari, squared off Thursday night in what by all accounts was a fiery debate that highlighted the many differences between the two candidates.

It was the only debate scheduled in this year's gubernatorial contest, and Kashkari came out swinging.

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney summed up the tone of the debate this way:

By any measure, the debate Thursday was spirited, and it often verged out of control as the two men talked over each other. Mr. Kashkari, in particular, spoke over the panelists, often pivoting off their questions to attack his opponent.

As the Associated Press reports, Kashkari slammed Brown for failing to do enough to land a Tesla battery plant, and the two clashed over teacher tenure, the costs of combating climate change and high-speed rail, among other issues.

Kashkari called Brown's signature high-speed rail project a "crazy train," but Brown responded with jabs of his own, repeatedly taking on Kashkari's one-time role as a Wall Street investment banker, as Reuters reports:

"I feel like I'm getting a sales pitch here from Neel," Brown said.

"You learned your job well working at Goldman Sachs."

The most contentious part of the debate, according to the San Jose Mercury News, was the portion centering on the state of California's public schools:

When asked why he's appealing the recent Vergara v. California court ruling that found the quality of California's public schools so poor that it violates some students' constitutional rights, Brown blamed the schools' woes on insufficient funding and problems communicating with students just learning to speak English.

Kashkari, however, accused Brown of putting the interests of the California Teachers Association ahead of struggling students.

"You had a choice between fighting for the civil rights of poor kids and fighting for the union bosses who funded your campaigns," Kashkari said. "You sided with the union bosses. You should be ashamed of yourself, governor."

The Wall Street Journal notes that although Brown's performance was unexceptional, he also avoided any major gaffes and, if anything, won by default because California is a blue state.

The debate proved Kashkari's ability to deliver a concise talking point and Brown’s skill at biting counterattacks, the Journal reports:

Halfway through the debate, Mr. Kashkari concluded an attack on California’s implementation of the federal health-care law by saying he would not do away with the state’s health-insurance exchange, the largest state-operated marketplace to emerge under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Mr. Brown pounced on his opponent’s remarks, and then added an attack on his Wall Street background.

“There are so many glib statements here that don’t comport with reality that I don’t know where to start,” Mr. Brown said. “I feel like I am getting a sales pitch from—I don’t know whom.”

“You have learned your job well there, working at Goldman Sachs, with the rest of the people who wrecked the economy,” the governor continued. “It is kind of like the arsonist putting out the fire. I really appreciate that.”

Here are more takes on the debate:

The debate was co-hosted by KQED, Telemundo52 and The California Channel. Listen to the full audio below:

Audio