SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides sparred over the direction of the state's economy Saturday in their first and only debate planned for the gubernatorial campaign.
In a series of sharp exchanges, Schwarzenegger and Angelides differed over higher education fees, taxes and the state of the middle class.
Angelides said fees at the California State University and University of California systems have risen by thousands of dollars under Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger noted that college fees rose dramatically under his predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and that he has capped them this year.
He also attacked Angelides as wanting to raise billions in taxes if he is elected Nov. 7.
"I can tell by the joy I see in your eyes that you love to raise taxes," the governor said to Angelides. "Why don't you just say right now, 'I love increasing your taxes."'
Angelides said his plan was to raise taxes on the wealthy and close corporate tax loopholes, in part to help California balance its budget and fully fund education.
"Who can you trust to do the right thing by middle class families in this state?" Angelides said.
Schwarzenegger holds the lead in polls. Angelides had hoped to use the debate to rattle his opponent.
Angelides has called the governor insensitive for remarks he made about immigrants.
On Thursday, Schwarzenegger answered a reporter's question about assimilation by saying Mexican immigrants often are slow to integrate because they cling to strong ties with their native country.
He defended his remarks Friday and criticized Angelides for jumping on his comments.
"I think that if my opponent, Phil Angelides, makes this into a political issue — that if he doesn't like the idea of a melting pot — then he's out of the mainstream. It's that simple," Schwarzenegger said, according to a transcript distributed by his campaign office.
The timing of Saturday's hour-long debate — it started at 6 p.m. on a Saturday — had drawn criticism. The same time slot was scheduled for a Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Mets playoff game and a UCLA football game. Even Sacramento State University, the debate host, had a homecoming football game set to start at the same time.
The sponsor of the event, the California Broadcasters Association, said 40 television and 21 radio stations in California planned to carry the debate live and many planned to broadcast it later.