One of the more heated moments came when Kashkari criticized Brown for appealing a recent high-profile court ruling on teacher tenure laws, which a state judge ruled violates California students’ constitutional right to a good education.
“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 to Brown. “You sided with the union bosses. You should be ashamed of yourself, Governor. I’m going to side with the kids.”
‘That makes no sense at all,” Brown responded. “That is so false.” The governor said broader problems like poverty play a bigger role than tenure laws in hindering educational opportunities, and said state law obligated him to appeal the lower-court ruling.
It was clear that as the debate progressed, Kashkari’s criticism got under Brown’s skin. In response, he repeatedly attacked Kashkari’s ties to Wall Street. Kashkari worked as a Goldman Sachs banker before moving to the U.S. Treasury Department, where he ran the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which helped prop up struggling banks during the economic crisis. Brown even looped that background into his answer to moderator John Myers’ question about high-speed rail.
“Mr. Kashkari calls it a crazy train,” Myers asked. “He says stop the crazy train. Governor, is it a crazy train?”
“Uh, no,” said Brown. “I think he’s more familiar with the gravy train in Washington that paid out $30 billion in bonuses, or at least sat silently by while it happened.”
Brown Will 'Probably' Sign Bag Ban
Brown did make some news during the debate, saying he’ll “probably” sign a high-profile bill banning single-use plastic bags. He said the statewide policy, which lawmakers passed last Friday, makes more sense than the more than 100 local bans already in place. But that revelation gave Kashkari an opening -- the Republican argued Brown and state lawmakers are spending too much time focusing on smaller issues like the bag ban, or another bill allowing dogs in outdoor restaurants.
“What they’re not working on is rebuilding the middle class,” he said. “You know, Governor, you say oh, you’re making incremental changes. We’re 46th in education. We’re 44th in jobs. We’re No. 1 in poverty. The time for incremental is long since passed, Governor. We actually need bold reforms to rebuild the middle class. Plastic bags is not going to do it.”
Brown countered that Kashkari’s campaign platform is nothing more than a handful of slogans and vague promises.
“You said the answer to poverty is to create a job, and the only thing you want to do about creating jobs is get rid of unspecified regulations and reduce taxes,” said Brown.
This will likely be the campaign’s only debate -- Brown says he doesn’t want to hold any more forums, and declined again when asked by Myers tonight. That’s an understandable campaign tactic for the incumbent, who holds a commanding lead over Kashkari -- 16 points, according to the latest Field Poll -- and doesn’t want to give his little-known opponent any additional free publicity.