Brown Defeats Whitman In State Governor Race

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Governor-Elect Jerry Brown

In Downtown Oakland, Jerry Brown and the California Democratic Party set up an event in Fox Theatre with hopes of victory.

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OAKLAND - 27 years after he ended his first round as governor of California, Democrat Jerry Brown secured an unprecedented third term Tuesday, handing Republican candidate Meg Whitman a sizeable defeat despite her record spending.

After spending more than $140 million in her quest for governor, Whitman came away with only about 42.2 percent of the vote compared to Brown's 52.8 percent - with 72.5 percent of precincts reporting as of press time - and with many of the state's key constituencies swinging towards Brown, according to exit polls.

As the results came in Tuesday night, Brown addressed a crowd of supporters amassed here at the Fox Theater, thanking them and providing lofty promises of a new future for the state.

"I take as my challenge a forging of a common purpose, a common purpose based not only on compromise but on a vision of what California could be, and I see a California once again leading in renewable energy, in public education and in openness to every kind of person, regardless of color." Brown told the crowd. "While I am really into this politics thing, I still carry this missionary zeal to change the world."

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulated Brown on his victory, saying his office would "provide the most efficient and smooth transition of power possible for the people of California."

As results were tabulated, Whitman said at her own campaign event that she congratulated Brown and that the campaign was not about candidates, "it was about the hopes and dreams of millions of Californians ... it is my hope that a new era of bipartisan problem-solving can begin tonight."

In a brief talk with reporters after the speech, Brown said he would begin meeting with the state's legislative leaders immediately to tackle the state's looming multi-billion dollar budget. In an interview with reporters during Brown's celebration, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said though having a Democrat as governor will expedite the process of passing a budget, he does not think Brown's victory will mean as much as Proposition 25 - looking to pass as of press time - which would eliminate the two-thirds requirement to pass a state budget.

"A lot of things get ignored when you are in a 100-day late budget deadlock," Steinberg said.

Now that the state's governor is in place, UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng said though he hoped to see Brown make a strong commitment to supporting the UC system financially, he also said he would pressure Brown to keep his campaign promise to sign the state's DREAM Act into law if it came to his desk.

The bill, which would provide undocumented students in the state's universities with financial aid, came up in a debate between Brown and Whitman after Schwarzenegger vetoed it for a second time. Whitman also took a strong position against undocumented students, saying in her campaign that they should not be allowed to attend the state's universities, a move that some experts said would cost her important Latino votes.

Still, Cheng said the biggest effect Brown could have on the UC would be resuming contributions to the university's retirement plan, which the state has not paid into since 1990. The UC could face $20 billion in unfunded liabilities by 2014 if a new model is not installed.

"He needs to recognize that one way or another, he is going to have to fund UCRP," Cheng said. "If the sate doesn't, it is going to have to come out of the UC's operating costs, and those come from the state budget."

Still, with the state facing a huge budget problem, the UC would be lucky not to face additional cuts, said Jack Citrin, UC Berkeley political science professor.

"The universities are going to be competing for funds with other claimants, and we can't expect much increased support - you better just hope there are no more cuts," he said.

Alisha Azevedo of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


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

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