Jerry and eMeg faced off in their final of three debates on Tuesday night. And I have to hand it to him--our guy has taken the trifecta.
Moderated by Tom Brokaw, who's no stranger to asking tough questions, Jerry remained direct, engaging, and on-message for the duration of the evening while his opponent struggled and failed to derail him with false attacks.
eMeg opened her arguments with a glowing discussion of how her family was lucky enough to achieve the "California Dream." I think I heard the person next to me groan out loud.
Doesn't the California Dream suggest a rags-to-riches, failure-to-success, against-the-odds struggle? White Collar Whitman graduated from Princeton before assuming a series of high-powered business executive roles. Doesn't exactly conjure up an image of Horatio Alger washing up on the shore with nothing in his pocket.
Following the depiction of her family's humble rise to the top, eMeg began her first of many barrages against the state of our state. It's true that California has seen better times; the entire country has. But by the way she discussed our situation, you'd think the entire west coast was coated in a layer of radioactive sludge.
Jerry, on the other hand, opened with a much more positive discussion about our state's potential, its 38 million residents, its history of growth and innovation. It reminded me of arriving in San Francisco after college with nothing but two suitcases and taking in the Pacific coastline for the first time, filled with a sense of possibility.
I'd rather be inspired than anxiety-addled, and I'll bet the majority of Californians agree with me.
However, our next leader will have to face the unfortunate reality of 12.8 percent unemployment, and one thing both candidates agree on is the importance of job creation to our state's future.
The similarities stop there. When Brokaw asked how each gubernatorial hopeful would create jobs, Jerry talked about his pioneering, detailed plan to expand the clean energy sector and invest in green technologies.
eMeg, on the other hand, peppered more bleak statistics with that pesky capital gains tax promise again. I have discussed at length how flawed this proposal would be for our state. When Jerry pointed this out to her, however, she back-peddled into a pre-packaged theory about how a tax on capital gains is a tax on jobs.
I fail to see how eliminating a multi-millionaire business owner's tax on his stock purchases would inspire him to do anything more than buy a house in Tahoe. I therefore appreciated Jerry's explanation that removing the capital gains tax would only benefit California's wealthiest demographic, after which he asked, "Ms. Whitman, how much would you save?"
eMeg tried to hit back by touting her record as a job creator at eBay. But she conveniently dodged the fact that in her last year at the company, she walked away with $120 million while just months later, eBay laid off 10 percent of its work force.
When job discourse transitioned into budget talk, Jerry reiterated his promise to begin negotiations as early as November. eMeg, as usual, offered no specifics as she tried to peg herself as a newcomer with a fresh approach.
Don't forget that under the leadership of another political outsider, the legislature finished this year's budget almost four months late. I simply don't believe someone who has never balanced a state budget before will do a better job than someone familiar with the idiosyncrasies involved.
Ditto for pension reform. Jerry discussed the need for a two-tiered pension system and his willingness to bargain with labor groups. Again, eMeg tried to play the independence card. But the unexplained elephant in the room--her exemption of public safety workers from any form of pension adjustment--proves that, contrary to a popular phrase of hers, she may indeed "owe something to someone."
In fact, for all her insistence that she's running an autonomous campaign, our opponent conveniently dodged another truth. Last week, the Los Angeles Times published the appropriately titled, "Donations to Whitman undercut her no-special-interests claim." The piece included a report that eMeg has actually collected more in outside donations than Jerry.
That didn't stop her from pouring an additional $20 million into her effort just this week, shattering her own spending record.
No matter what reality distortions eMeg presents within the confines of a 60-second debate response, the fact remains that she simply did not bother to vote or show any glimmer of political interest for almost 30 years. Brokaw rightfully questioned her on it, and she responded with the same sheepish apology she always gives.
Regardless of party, positions, and personal philosophies, you will never convince me to vote for a person who didn't care to vote herself. That's like hiring someone to perform open-heart surgery who couldn't be bothered to go to medical school.
I hope voters think long and hard about this. After all, perhaps the only true statement eMeg made during the entire debate came when she said Californians need to look at what the two candidates have done, and not at what they have said.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.