Poll: Whitman Trails Brown In Competition For Governor

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As California voters head to the voting booths Tuesday, the latest polls show Democratic candidate Jerry Brown pulling ahead of Republican opponent Meg Whitman by 10 percentage points in a race that experts say will come down to voters' perception of the candidates' biographies more than their stance on issues.

Speaking at a campus presentation organized by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies Monday evening, director of the nonpartisan Field Poll Mark DiCamillo provided updated numbers for numerous statewide races that show Brown leading Whitman 49 to 39 percentage points, with Whitman's unfavorable rating hitting 51 percent among likely voters - a 24 percent increase since March.

DiCamillo called the drop in support "remarkable" considering Whitman's campaign has spent more than $140 million so far in the campaign, adding that Whitman was hurt when it was revealed that she employed an undocumented worker for nine years while also opposing the hiring of illegal immigrants.

"Until then, they were running on their biographies, it wasn't really a race on issues," DiCamillo said in an interview after the presentation.

Because of the down economy, DiCamillo added that "all of the other issues just melt away." But whoever becomes the next governor will be making key decisions for the University of California, said UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng, as one of the 26 voting members of UC Board of Regents that includes the governor and lieutenant governor as ex-officio members.

The governor officially serves as the president of the board, but in recent years Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's role has been largely relegated to providing funds for the 10-campus university system and not in the policy realm, Cheng said. While he said he would like to see the next governor play more of a role in formulating policy for the university, Cheng said he does not think the state's fiscal situation will allow for that.

The state Legislature closed a $19 billion budget gap in October and according to H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the state Department of Finance, the next governor will likely be faced with another multibillion dollar budget gap.

"If we have a governor that handles budget for (the UC), then they have more than done their job," Cheng said.

Whitman has promised to infuse $1 billion into the UC and CSU systems after cutting from the state's welfare system, though that proposal has been challenged by economists statewide, including some at UC Berkeley.

Brown has said he would increase funding to the state's universities by cutting from the state's corrections budget. He has also proposed expanding online education at the state's universities, as well as rewriting the state's Master Plan for Higher Education - a document originally authored in 1960 that sets guidelines for the state's three segments of higher education.

Cheng said he had "deep reservations" regarding Brown's support for online education and also did not support taking money from the state's public safety net to fund higher education.

Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said though some might object to Whitman's funding proposal, it could be beneficial for the state.

"In a way, it goes back into welfare by giving more opportunity to people with less opportunity," he said.

Ian Magruder, president of the California College Democrats and a junior at UC Berkeley, said Proposition 25, which would eliminate the two-thirds majority required to pass a state budget, could end up having a more significant impact on the state than the governor's race.

"This is a real huge first step toward reforming our government and putting the control of the Legislature back in the hands of the majority, who are pro-students," Magruder said.

At the presentation Monday evening, DiCamillo noted that voters polled were 49 percent in favor of the proposition while 31 percent were against it.


Javier Panzar is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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