Poizner Goes on Offense

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jim Gensheimer

    What looks to be the final debate between GOP gubernatorial candidates Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman was held Sunday night in San Jose.

    Although they are in the same party, the two found very little common ground in the one hour event.  They also appeared to pay very little attention to the questions asked by the panel of journalists.  Instead they stuck to their individual talking points.

    It didn't even take a full five minutes before Whitman and Poizner took shots at one another.  Whitman accused Poizner of flip-flopping on his immigration position and Poizner questioning Whitman's involvement in Goldman Sachs.

    Raw Video: Candidates on Immigration

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    See the answers to the question about Arizona's immigration law.

    Poizner brought on the flip flop issue himself when he said he now supports Arizona's tough immigration law and applauds the state for taking action where the federal government failed to do so.   Poizner said he previously had concerns about racial profiling under Arizona's new immigration law, but now supports it since Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer approved changes earlier this week.

    "I support what's going on in Arizona. They've taken, finally, the power in their own hands to do something about illegal immigration in Arizona," Poizner said.    

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    The first question of the night asked Meg Whitman how she can identify with a normal Californian.

    Whitman said his answer was a "classic case of Steve Poizner changing his mind."      "He has changed his position on virtually every single thing," she said.

    It was Poizner who went on the offensive on the subject of Goldman Sachs.   Whitman has been under fire in recent days for her ties to the firm

    Whitman insisted she never steered eBay business to Goldman Sachs because it gave her the special stock deals. She said she made $1.8 million on the deals but forfeited that profit when she settled a lawsuit with eBay shareholders over the arrangement. 

    "No, I did not do anything wrong," she said when pressed. "It was a legal and standard practice. With 20-20 hindsight, would I do it again? No."

    Poizner jumped on that response and said, "Wow. You really don't get this, Meg.   Until you got caught, you didn't think anything was wrong."

    Poizner clearly had the most to gain from the event because he is behind in the polls.  Political analysts say it's Poizner's last chance. 

    Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, told the Mercury News that Poizner's strategy has always been, 'Don't fire until you see the whites of her eyes.' Schnur added, "Here she is."

    Poizner has surged a bit in the latest published polls, but still remains some 30 points behind Whitman with just five weeks to go until voting day.

    It is the second debate for the two. They also faced off in Southern California in March.   That debate did not make many headlines. 

    They are both vying for a spot to face off against Attorney General Jerry Brown come November.

    Whitman and Poizner are each millionaires and have poured millions from their personal bank accounts into their campaigns.

    KQED's John Myers moderated the event.  A panel of journalists asked the questions.   They were the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci; the Sacramento Bee’s Jack Chang; AP's Mike Blood and Univision’s Santiago Lucero.