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BrownWhitman.JPGDebate season has arrived in the California governor's race, at least the initial courtship.

A Sacramento-based consortium, including The Sacramento Bee, on Friday invited Gov. Jerry Brown and his Republican opponent, Neel Kashkari, to debate this fall.

Besides The Bee, the sponsoring group includes KCRA, Capital Public Radio and California State University, Sacramento. The same media partners sponsored a debate between Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Meg Whitman in 2010 that drew an estimated two million viewers statewide. This year's debate would be held at Sacramento State's 330-seat Capistrano Hall.

Kashkari has called for a series of 10 debates, and accepted an early invitation from a television station in San Diego. On Friday, he accepted the invitation from the Sacramento group.

"As Neel said last week and Gov. Brown said four years ago, it is critical for voters to hear directly from both candidates about their plans to address the big challenges facing our state, including how they intend to create good jobs and improve our schools," Pat Melton, Kashkari's campaign manager, said in an email.

Brown, with sizeable advantages in fundraising and public opinion polls, has not said whether he will debate Kashkari. "We look forward to taking a look at it," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said Friday after receiving the invitation.

PHOTO: Jerry Brown shakes hands with Meg Whitman at the start of the California gubernatorial debate at UC Davis' Mondavi Center on Sept. 29, 2010 in Davis. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.



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