Less than two weeks before the California primary election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman told a Modesto audience Thursday that job creation is her top priority.
Speaking before about 100 people at San Joaquin Equipment, a tractor dealership on Crows Landing Road, Whitman promised to bring 2 million jobs to the state by 2015. She said she would accomplish that by cutting taxes, imposing a moratorium on new regulation and stopping the loss of jobs to neighboring states.
Whitman believes California's chronic financial troubles are exacerbated by its 12 percent unemployment rate (the Northern San Joaquin Valley rate is nearly 20 percent).
"If we do not put California back to work, there is no way out of this mess," she said.
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Whitman, a former eBay executive, is competing with another former Silicon Valley executive, Steve Poizner, for the GOP nomination in the June 8 primary.
Ignoring Poizner, she instead attacked former governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown, the presumptive Democratic candidate in November. Whitman said Brown never will stand up to the public employees' unions because they are his biggest supporters. She said she will fight them to reduce overly generous pension benefits for public employees, which allow some to retire as early as 50.
She doesn't care if her plan to cut $15 billion in government spending will make her unpopular.
"If we can turn California around, I'm more than happy to take the slings and arrows," she said.
Whitman has been criticized on the campaign trail for being insulated, but she answered many questions from attendees and the media Thursday. She covered her stances on illegal immigration, abortion, higher education and guns.
She said she cares about the Central Valley's concerns and has visited the region 32 times. "We have got to protect our agricultural industry," she said.
She shared these thoughts:
Illegal immigration: "I am 100 percent against amnesty, no exceptions," she said. Whitman said she wants to build better fences at the border and fine employers who hire undocumented workers.
Abortion: Whitman said she supports abortion rights with restrictions. As one example, she opposes late-term abortions.
Higher education: She said she wants to add $1 billion to California's universities. "Our higher education is still the envy of the world," she said.
Guns: Whitman said she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, which gives citizens the right to bear arms. She said California doesn't need any more laws regulating guns.
Bee staff writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2313.