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Carly Schwartz Headshot

California Governor's Debate One: Stiff & Vague, Meet Engaging & Informed

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I'll admit it. I had a hunch Jerry would emerge victorious over eMeg at last night's debate. He's such a dynamic person to swap opinions with around the office, I could only imagine how he'd appear in a larger arena.

But I was pleasantly surprised by just how compelling and capable our candidate appeared next to his opponent. Throughout the conversation, Jerry remained authentic, direct, colorful, and engaging, while eMeg came off stiff, canned, and even nervous at times.

After spending a significant time researching eMeg's pledge to abolish the capital gains tax, I'm pleased Jerry brought up the issue more than once. You can read about how dangerous this would be for California in an earlier blog post; in a nutshell, such a measure would provide even more tax breaks for the wealthiest residents while drying up funding for resources extremely important to the rest of the state, such as education and health care.

Read: eMeg and her fellow million-and-billionaires would soak in lavish returns while California's budget continues to shrink.

In fact, it amazes me that our opponent even attempted to distinguish herself as 'independent to special interests' when she is clearly beholden to the interests of her affluent peers. When she tried to ding Jerry for his connection to the California labor force, Jerry rightfully pointed out that she still has yet to disclose the donors behind the Chamber of Commerce 'slush fund' being used to run attack ads all summer. He called for a 24-hour disclosure period; here's hoping her camp has the integrity to make this happen.

Speaking of campaign finance, I had to cringe when eMeg declared with her signature smile that she doesn't 'think you can buy elections.'

Come again? Did she not pour $119 million of her own money in an effort to secure the state's top position?

Sure, her explanation that she was spending so freely because voters deserve access to the truth would be great, if her ads and claims weren't laden with inaccuracies. Sorry, eMeg, I don't think the majority of Californians believe that your self-funded campaign has much to do with spreading the truth. That's just another lie, this time about the act of lying. Not only a mega myth...but a meta myth.

Jerry, on the other side, was quick to point out his legendary frugality. Believe me, the man knows how to make the most of his money; I see it firsthand every day at work. I'm glad he mentioned the fact that he was the only governor in recent history to veto pay raises for state employees. He frankly and realistically answered questions about budget cuts to various state programs, a sharp contrast to eMeg's economic fantasy land where the state magically procures resources without consequences.

Jerry made it clear that he had the breadth and depth of knowledge to face challenges like wrangling the state budget because, as a lifelong California resident and public servant, he's experienced the state government firsthand from all angles. In addition to mentioning his plethora of leadership roles (Secretary of State, Governor, Oakland Mayor, Attorney General), it was touching to hear him discuss watching his father, California hall-of-famer Pat Brown, navigate state government starting when Jerry was just five years old.

What did eMeg have to offer in return? The same sheepish apology for her failure to vote or participate in California politics for nearly 30 years.

Issues aside, their overall stage presence was miles apart. I want a leader who will discuss his positions comfortably and dynamically, giving me incentive to sit up and pay attention. Jerry peppered his arguments with entertaining asides and his quintessential quips (catch some of the highlights in the video below). I appreciated the human element that came through even while he navigated complicated issues. eMeg did offer up one stab at humor, something about Dracula and a blood bank, but it fell flat and just made me feel kind of uncomfortable.

Myriad media outlets agree with me, including conservative columnist Debra Saunders, who frequently leans towards right-wing candidates. And the Sacramento Bee online readers poll has Jerry winning by a mile - as I write this, he's ahead 75 percent to eMeg's 16.

I may be prone to hyperbole, but as a newcomer to working in the political world, I was simply dazzled by our guy's debate performance. And that statement is no exaggeration.

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