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Pamela Tom Headshot

Keeping Score in California's Governor's Race

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Forget Secretariat, the race to watch is between Meg and Jerry - and who's willing to bet on the winner?

Willie Brown hit it on the nail when he said in his weekly column, "Meg Whitman's biggest problem with her handling of the 'nanny issue' isn't with the law. It's her personality. The absence of a friendly, folksy manner has made her appear unfeeling and mechanical." As the former California assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor, Willie Brown is politically savvy with a capital "S" and all you have to do is watch Meg's millions of dollars of worth of commercials to agree and ask, who is the real Meg?

The "nanny-gate" scandal has fueled the national dialogue on illegal immigration. Whitman's former nanny, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, will have her day in court when a hearing on her claim for back wages comes up in the final days before the election on October 20. But back to Meg's personality and believability; she is a successful executive - intelligent and attentive to detail. It is difficult to believe that she, or her husband, would ever be careless or forgetful, especially when the worker in question is someone you're trusting with your children and inside your home.

The political fallout will be measured on Election Day. In the days leading up to November 2, voters are chomping at the bit in anticipation of the next snafu. Democratic opponent Jerry Brown scored one on Whitman's maid-to-order scandal. Then she gains a leg for Brown's latest blooper when his aide suggested calling Whitman a "whore" over her promise to protect police pensions. When will politicians learn, anything with a speaker, be it a microphone or a telephone, has ears, big ones?

And then just to even the playing field a bit more, California Watch reveals Brown's "special list" of VIP "confidants, political insiders and supporters" whom Brown instructed his staff to give special access to when he was governor in 1979. The article quotes a campaign finance reform advocate as saying most politicians probably have similar lists.

The bigger story amongst the mudslinging is, of course, California's future. Sacramento legislators finally approved the budget - nearly four months late - but unemployment, housing prices, and public education are far from remedy. How do we elect representatives who will provide real solutions? Governor Schwarzenegger calls the new budget a "compromise" but the economy can't recover when unions and corporations remain far from compromise. In the meantime, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and in the middle of it all, the rest of us are just hanging on. I'm sick of deals and compromises. I want a leader.

I do like Ron Howard's recent blog post suggesting straight forward, no frill campaign ads minus everything but a candidate talking straight into the lens. We deserve straight talk from the people we elect to make effective decisions. At the same time, the only way to make "honest" campaign ads effective is to get the media to back off of the juicy headlines, and that's not likely.

Illegal immigration, jobs, marijuana, and the environment may comprise the issues of the day but a candidate fighting for real campaign finance reform seems to offer the only insurance of integrity in a race that's coming down to the finish line, neck-in-neck. Even the playing field and you allow the best candidate to emerge and claim victory. Brown authored the Political Reform Act of 1974 and has spent an estimated $11 million in his gubernatorial run. Whitman has now spent $140 million on her campaign. Ouch.

Who's keeping score? Every California voter, I hope.