By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Jerry Brown says Meg Whitman is a billionaire who’s trying to buy the governorship to give herself and other wealthy people big tax breaks while slashing vital public services, not to mention treating her hired help shabbily.

Whitman says Brown is an over-the-hill political retread who’s a captive of public employee unions, wants to raise taxes on recession-hammered Californians, and is insensitive to women to boot.

Their duel for the governorship, filled with personal invective and trivia, is entering its final stages with one last debate tonight.

Democrat Brown, seeking another stint as governor 28 years after leaving the office, and Republican Whitman, trying to convert business experience into a political career, appear to remain functionally tied.

While Brown leads in some polls, at best he’s only a few percentage points ahead, and there are enough still-undecided voters to tip it either way. In fact, a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll showed Whitman was winning the undecideds just before it was revealed that she had employed, apparently unwittingly, an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper and then fired the woman.

The revelation became a media sensation, and Brown clearly rocked Whitman during their second debate in Fresno, accusing her of evading responsibility for her former housekeeper’s welfare.

But just days later, Brown himself was rocked by an accidentally recorded phone message in which a woman in Brown’s inner circle referred to Whitman as a “whore” for making promises to gain a Los Angeles police union’s endorsement.

Whitman and her allies quickly piled on, dredging up an old Brown interview in which he disparaged the value of mammograms in detecting breast cancer.

A Fox News report said the name-calling Brownie was Anne Gust Brown, the candidate’s wife. “I don’t know who it was,” Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford staunchly replied when asked the question several different ways.

Thus the stage is set for tonight’s final debate in San Rafael, and with two sensational X-factor incidents still burning, it’s likely to be a full-out exchange of accusatory broadsides.

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