So ... that's a no.
Perhaps the most notable narrative, at least from my vantage point as moderator, was how each man's experience had led them to such vastly different viewpoints about how to govern. For Brown, this is probably the last campaign of an unprecedented life in the public eye, and an effort to continue what he started in his third term as governor in 2011 -- a slow but steady untangling of some of California's most long-running problems.
"Anything in government takes time," Brown said during the debate.
Contrast that with Neel Kashkari, a man who's singular government achievement may have succeeded precisely because there was no time. That's the creation and execution of the 2008 Troubled Assets Relief Program (or TARP), the federal bank bailout that Kashkari's boss at the time, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, begged congressional leaders to accept if they wanted to keep the nation's financial system from collapsing.
Kashkari seems to have taken from that experience a particularly strong belief in his power to effect big change. He certainly demonstrated that in Thursday's debate over Brown's record in tackling California's biggest fiscal and economic problems.
Brown said, "We are making incremental progress."
To which Kashkari fired back: "The time for incrementalism has long since passed, Governor."
That may be, but Kashkari would be wise to look at what's happened to previous California governors who have sought big change and demanded state lawmakers follow along. After all, many believe the cocksure attitude by former Gov. Gray Davis that the Legislature was there "to implement my vision," ended with intraparty fighting, gridlock ... and Davis' recall from office. His successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, didn't fare much better at times.
Brown, on the other hand, seems to have fully matured into a behind-the-scenes negotiator, a governor who helps shape dozens of bills before they ever reach his desk and who concedes some issues to win others. Of course, that's not so easy to explain (or defend) in a political campaign.
The debate (a partnership of KQED, The California Channel, The Los Angeles Times, and Telemundo52) offered Neel Kashkari the first real chance to introduce himself to the public; after all, a new Field Poll shows 41% of likely voters still have no opinion of him.
The Republican newcomer took great pains in the live TV and radio debate to portray himself as "an aerospace engineer" (his first job before a pivot to investment banking) and "the son of immigrants" (his parents were born in India). The incumbent governor, of course, came prepared to talk about Kashkari's well-paid work on Wall Street prior to his challenger's efforts on the federal bank bailout.
"It's kind of like the arsonist putting out the fire," said Brown of Kashkari's jobs before and after the 2008 recession.
In the end, neither candidate fully explained beliefs or actions on some thorny issues. Brown launched into the crisis of climate change when asked how to explain an expected rise in gas prices in 2015 from California's climate regulations (and he boasted of finding a listing for $1.50 gas in California online).
Kashkari, meantime, promised to inspire some kind of national action on immigration reform and warned of "open borders," rather than answering a question about the 58 percent of Californians in a new poll who support state funding for legal assistance to the recent wave of unaccompanied and undocumented children. Kashkari is opposed to that plan.
One thing's for sure: If Neel Kashkari wants to remain viable or even relevant over the next eight weeks, he's got to find a way to not let Jerry Brown go back to the quiet work of governing. And should he provoke a fight, he will have to find a way to deflect the powerful TV ads that Brown's $22 million war chest could easily finance.