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California Republican gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman speaks to the Greater San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce March 18, 2010 in San Jose, California. Whitman is currently campaigning ahead of the California Republican primary for governor.
Most everyone knows what the reviews on user-generated content site Yelp can do for business. But what can it do for a gubernatorial candidate? An employee of the San Francisco-based review site is leading the way into that discusson.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman faced an unusually tough crowd Wednesday during a stop at Yelp's SF headquarters, where young staffers bombarded her with questions about her negative ads, her record-breaking spending and her stance against gay marriage.
The star of the show, arguably, was Susan McKay, a 24-year-old advertising account executive who asked the first question after Whitman's prepared speech. McKay questioned Whitman about her campaign ads against opponent Jerry Brown, calling the spots misleading and accusing the GOP nominee of using "smear tactics" throughout her campaign.
McKay's question was followed by cheers and applause from the audience and a giggle from candidate Whitman as she prepped her answer, which some might say was typical for a candidate.
Whitman was forced to defend an ad she's running that features footage of former President Bill Clinton criticizing her rival in a 1992 presidential debate. Some of the claims about Brown's record as governor from 1975 to 1983 have been debunked.
Not surprisingly, Whitman started her answer by saying, "The facts of that ad are accurate." Whitman said running the ad is the right thing to do and that "the essentials of that ad are absolutely true."
The rest of her answer continued in the same tone, as if McKay had asked Whitman to expand on her own stance on taxes and bash her opponent's position. Whitman's summary by the end of the answer: "Politics is a tough business."
Scroll down for a video clip of the moment, as captured by the Chronicle.
McKay, who described herself as a Democrat who is undecided on her vote for governor, said later that Whitman did not address her concerns.
"People are just tired of hearing negative things," she said. "We don't need to be reminded that California is in a dire situation. That's obvious to all Californians." McKay said. "The ideas are great but there's not a lot of backing up those ideas with actual plans for the future."
Billionaire former eBay CEO Whitman also came under fire for contributing millions of dollars from her personal fortune, a personal spending rate that has now surpassed any other political candidate in American history, at $119 million.
Whitman tried keep the focus on the hallmarks of her platform: cutting state spending by eliminating waste, making government more efficient by using technology and improving public schools. But she faced several uncomfortable moments when staffers questioned her about her opposition to gay marriage, both during the event's official question-and-answer session and afterward.
The GOP nominee said she favors civil unions over gay marriage, and that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brown, the state's attorney general, had a duty to appeal a federal court decision that found California's anti-gay marriage initiative Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
Whitman said she was invited to the Yelp headquarters by chief executive and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman, who knew Whitman when he was vice president of engineering at PayPal, which was acquired by Whitman's eBay.
The event proved to be a far cry from the highly scripted campaign stops the former eBay chief executive has grown accustomed to during her campaign for California governor.