Just hours after leading a raucous rally with former President Bill Clinton at San Jose State Sunday night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown touted the support of several key Asian-American Democrats Monday morning and beat back criticisms of his record from the latest TV ads by Republican rival Meg Whitman.
Brown also repeated his demand that Whitman, the billionaire former CEO of online auction firm eBay, reveal how much she would personally save if the state followed her proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax.
The 72-year-old candidate and attorney general spoke at the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Northern California office in San Francisco, where he was joined by U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee and the 27-year-old mayor of Campbell, Evan Low, among others.
Whitman has also courted Asian-American voters, including running TV advertisements in both Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese. Her Asian American/Pacific Islander Coalition is led by businessman C.C. Yin, founder of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association.
Yee highlighted Brown's appointment of the first Chinese-American woman judge to the state Superior Court in Northern California, LiIlian Sing, and his pick of Filipino-American Ronald Quidachay for the San Francisco Municipal Court.
Honda said Asian-American activists have been working for Brown without much fanfare behind the scenes.
"All of us in the field keep working," Honda said. "We don't have a high profile."
Brown cited his late father California Gov. Pat Brown's support of the community.
"I think of my father's first appointment of the first Chinese-American in California, Jack Chow, and he's a deputy district attorney," Brown said.
Brown then got down to the politics of the day, which included responding to TV ads by Whitman criticizing him for being soft on crime and for granting collective bargaining rights to state workers as governor.
About collective bargaining, Brown said none of the governors who came after him, Republican and Democrat, had moved to take away such rights from state employees.
"All these people have a chance to make decisions, and I haven't seen any of them try to repeal it," Brown said.
Brown also pooh-poohed Whitman linking collective bargaining to the ability of some state employees to retire at age 55.
"That's just not true," Brown said. "Where does that come from? The retirement age was 55 before, it's been for years."
The Democrat, however, said he would consider changing the retirement age for some state employees if elected governor.
"We will take it up with all the different groups and we'll have to make it actuarially sound and that's going to take some changes," Brown said. "And there's only a few ways you can change things. You can increase age, you can increase contribution and of course at my age I definitely value long-term service that goes into the seventh and eighth decade."
Responding to a Whitman ad accusing him of opposing the death penalty, Brown pointed to endorsements from law enforcement groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association.
Brown also answered criticism by Whitman of his proposal to help more undocumented students attend public colleges and universities.
In a statement released over the weekend, Whitman said about that proposal, "Jerry Brown's position is wrong, because it is unfair to California taxpayers and to the students and families that are here legally. As I've said consistently throughout this campaign, I believe that in this time of fiscal crisis and strain on our public colleges and universities, our priority must be to help kids who are legal residents go to state supported colleges."
Brown hit back Monday by calling Whitman insensitive to the struggles of illegal immigrant students.
"If Ms. Whitman's position is that she wants certain people in our society even though they've lived here for 10 or 15 years, they've gone to school, they've got As and Bs, she wants them in a subordinate position, I think she ought to say that," Brown said. "Because I can't believe that Meg Whitman would really say to these people, 'We don't want you to be skilled, we don't want you in college.'"