We are at Labor Day plus one and the race for California governor is officially "on."
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown finally spent some of his campaign war chest on television commercials Monday. He also came out swinging in person making several stops on the holiday Monday. He immediately hit on the campaign spending of GOP rival Meg Whitman.
"You can't buy the confidence and trust of the people," Brown told a picnic crowd in Sacramento. "They're distrustful of government. But you're not going to win their trust by trying to buy it. It's not for sale."
Whitman, a former eBay CEO, has spend more than $100 million so far on the race, while Brown up spent less than $1 million. Brown has about $30 million in the bank.
Brown, California's attorney general and a past governor, added that "California's not a logo to be rebranded by Meg Whitman."
Earlier in the day, union leaders in Los Angeles gave Democratic candidates a boost with a Labor Day rally that served as the unofficial kickoff to a general election season in which Republicans hope to make big gains.
An estimated 650 union members gathered at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, where they mingled with Democrats up and down the November ticket.
Among others, that included Brown, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, San Francisco Mayor and lieutenant governor candidate Gavin Newsom and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is running for attorney general.
Boxer told the crowd that her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, is antagonistic toward middle-class workers and criticized her for shipping jobs overseas during her tenure as Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive from 1999 to 2005.
"She was proud as she stamped 'Made in China' on her products. She was proud when she stamped 'Made in Malaysia' on her products. But let me tell you what I'm about: I want to see the words, 'Made in America' again," Boxer said to thunderous applause.
A summer Field Poll found Fiorina and Boxer in a statistical tie, although Boxer held a 12-to-1 campaign cash advantage. Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman also has drawn even with Democratic standard-bearer Jerry Brown, the longtime officeholder who is the party's candidate for governor.
Whitman has spent $104 million from her personal fortune so far, but Brown maintains he will have enough money to run a competitive campaign through the November election. He will begin airing his first television commercial on Tuesday.
Sharon Hechler, a grocery store worker from eastern Los Angeles County, said she thought Whitman's high spending would be a turnoff for many voters.
"Working people are not impressed with that sort of money," said Hechler, 55. "Besides, we know how she made it -- on the backs of workers."
Democrats are the majority party in California, with about 43 percent of registered voters, while Republican registration has slipped to less than a third. Nevertheless, Democratic candidates find themselves in tight races throughout the state, from constitutional offices such as attorney general to state legislative seats.
An unemployment rate that has remained above 12 percent for months, a persistently high home foreclosure rate and continued state budget deficits have soured the mood of the electorate, leading to abysmal approval ratings for current officeholders.
The Field Poll taken in July, for example, found that 52 percent of likely voters had an unfavorable impression of Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.
That discontent and a list of strong candidates at the top of their ticket have given Republicans hope that they can chip away at the Democratic hold on statewide offices and the Legislature this November.