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Meg Whitman said this afternoon that, if elected governor, she would not appoint any justice who opposes the death penalty, considering the issue a litmus test.

The Republican nominee, joined by crime victim advocates, made the remark to The Bee before a rally outside Los Angeles, where she called Democrat Jerry Brown "soft on crime" and criticized the former governor's appointment of liberal justices.

"This is a big point of difference between me and Jerry Brown," Whitman said. "He had a long history of judges that were very liberal, Rose Bird probably being the best example."

Responding previously to such criticism, Brown has said he has enforced the death penalty as state attorney general and would do so as governor, despite personal reservations.

As governor, Brown in 1977 vetoed death penalty legislation, and his appointment of Bird to be chief justice was one of his most controversial acts.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza in the northwest Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village, Whitman said, "One more week. One more week until we retire Jerry Brown permanently from politics."

Anti-Whitman demonstrators chanted outside, holding signs over a hedge and yelling, "California beware, Whitman doesn't care." The California Nurses Association has been demonstrating at Whitman events for months, and Whitman took them in stride.

"You know who the biggest protectors of the status quo are?" she said, pointing past a pool to the shrubs behind which demonstrators stood. "The public employee unions."

Whitman said, "Why do you think they're following me around? Because they know I'm going to change Sacramento."

Whitman, who has rarely brought gender into the race, mentioned it briefly. She said, "I think it's about time we had the first woman governor of California."


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