With results still fresh from the primary, Democratic nominee Jerry Brown wasted no time Wednesday launching the next phase of his campaign for governor by challenging Republican billionaire Meg Whitman to 10 town hall debates.
Speaking at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Brown said town hall exchanges would bring variety to a contest that has so far been dominated by Whitman's scripted television and radio ads.
Brown, 72, made his proposal a day after the party faithful selected their nominees in the state primary.
"Let's go to the people of California and have an unscripted exchange about the issues that we face," Brown said. "These are tough issues, there's not a quick solution around the corner here."
Brown's fundraising has been no match for Whitman's wealth, so the debates could provide inexpensive exposure for the Democrat.
Whitman countered by demanding that Brown provide his vision for the nation's most populous state. She reminded reporters that she has released a 48-page policy book detailing her proposals.
"So I would call on Jerry Brown to lay out a plan for California, then at least we'll have something to debate about," Whitman said during an appearance in Orange County with fellow Republican and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, who won the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Whitman, 53, a former eBay chief executive, has sunk $71 million of her own money into her campaign so far and has said she would spend an unprecedented $150 million to win her first public office.
Brown, a former two-term governor, was unchallenged in the primary and has spent about $400,000 so far this year. He currently has $20.6 million in cash on hand and will enjoy the backing of organized labor during his campaign.
Brown has been playing up his frugality. Meanwhile, it's unclear how voters will view Whitman's vast fortune as the state struggles with high foreclosure rates and unemployment that has remained above 12 percent for months. Much of her campaign spending has gone for chartered jets, fancy fundraisers in Beverly Hills and political consultants.
It wasn't the first time the Democratic insider has challenged Whitman to debate.
During the state Democratic Party convention earlier this year, Brown suggested a three-way debate with Whitman and her challenger in the GOP primary, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
Poizner accepted and Whitman declined.
On Tuesday, Whitman received 64 percent of the Republican vote compared to Poizner's 27 percent. Brown received 84 percent of the Democratic vote with no serious contenders from his party.
Whitman portrayed herself as an outsider who will deliver jobs and small businesses to California. Brown owes much to the labor groups that are funding his campaign, she said.
"If you give me the honor of being your next governor, the special interests and public employee unions won't stand a chance, because I will owe my office to no one but you," Whitman told supporters Tuesday night at a hotel in Universal City.
Brown said he would not be afraid to stand up to those who resist budget cuts as the state faces a $19 billion deficit in the next fiscal year starting in July.
"I will involve the people of California because what is at stake here is almost the re-founding of what our state government is. And that can't be done in a back room, it's not gong to be done like a CEO who slashes jobs and outsources them to foreign countries," Brown said.