Kashkari slams Brown in sole California gubernatorial debate

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Gov. Jerry Brown's Republican challenger blasted him for failing to do enough to land a Tesla battery plant Thursday during the only scheduled debate of this year's governor's race. (Rich Pedroncelli)

Republican challenger Neel Kashkari entered his debate with California Governor Jerry Brown trailing in the polls, fundraising and name identification.

He repeatedly and aggressively attacked Brown, hoping that the sole California gubernatorial debate held Thursday before the November 4th election would give his campaign new life.

Kashkari said that Brown's four decades in public life have made him out of touch with middle-class voters. He said the Governor's policies are bad for business in California.

"I know we can turn this around," said Kashkari. "I've got the plans and I've got the experience to get it done for all of us."

Before the debate began, The Field Poll showed Brown with a 16 point lead over the former U.S. Treasury official. Brown is preferred by 50 percent of voters; Kashkari is the choice of 34 percent.

"You don't have much of a chance to win Neel, because things have been accomplished in Sacramento," Brown said.

Brown said his policies helped turn a multi-billion deficit when he entered office into a surplus today.

"California's not perfect, we've got our problems, but boy what momentum we've had," Brown said.

One of the biggest disagreements was over the issue of teacher tenure.

A Los Angeles County judge recently ruled that the state's tenure laws are unconstitutional because they unfairly hurt poor and minority students. Governor Brown has appealed that decision.

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

Brown responded that Kashkari's charge "is so false!"

The two tangled over the multi-billion dollar plan to build high speed rail in California.

Brown has long advocated for the idea. "It is cheaper than building highways and more airport runways," he said.

Kashkari wants to kill the project. "Make no mistake, he's raising your gas prices to fund his vanity project called high speed rail. What I call 'the crazy train!'"

They sparred over so called "prison realignment." In 2011, Brown signed Assembly Bill 109 which reformed where and how prisoners are housed. It also released some offenders. The bill was prompted by a court order.

"This is a very important measure, it is by no means perfect. But the violent crime is not going up," said Brown.

Kashkari said he would fight court orders, if necessary.

He pointed to the example of a 39-year-old man who, he said, "was released by Gov. Brown, who went on and robbed and raped and murdered his own grandmother. These are dangerous people who are being released onto our streets!"

Brown repeatedly criticized Kashkari for his close ties to Wall Street.

The U.S. Treasury tapped Kashkari to help oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) after the financial crisis of 2008. At the time, many referred to TARP as the multi-billion bank bailout.

"You learned your job well there, working at Goldman Sachs and the rest of the people who wrecked the economy. You bailed them out, though. It is kind of like the arsonist putting out the fire. I really appreciate that," Brown said.

Kashkari defended his work in Washington D.C.

"If we can get them to work together in Washington, I know we can get them to work together in Sacramento for the people of California," said Kashkari.

Kashkari also criticized Brown for Tesla's decision to build a manufacturing plant in Nevada. The plant is expected to bring with it 6,500 manufacturing jobs.

"I don't think Governor Brown did enough on Tesla or any number of businesses," said Kashkari.

Brown said that the tax break deal Tesla was asking for would have been unfair for California taxpayers.

Brown, 76, is running for an unprecedented fourth term as California's governor. He first served from 1975 to 1983.

Perhaps Brown's biggest current advantage is fundraising. Brown has at least $23 million in his cash on hand. Kashkari reported having $200,000 in his account at the end of June. He's collected just $650,000 since then.

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