“I cannot win the governor’s race without the Latino vote,” gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman admitted on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Whitman made the comments during a volatile debate with Democratic challenger Jerry Brown on immigration at Fresno State University. It was then broadcast on Saturday on Univision.
The televised debate was the second, and easily most confrontational, between the two candidates. The tension emanated mostly from allegations last week that Whitman, who’s repeatedly argued that employers should be held accountable for their hiring practices, had knowingly hired Nicky Diaz, an undocumented woman who worked in Whitman’s home for nearly a decade.
Whitman maintains that she didn’t know about Diaz’s immigration status until shortly before she fired the woman. Last week she told reporters that she’d take a lie detector test to prove her point. And on Saturday, she accused Brown of being behind the sudden appearance of Diaz.
“Jerry, you should be ashamed,” Whitman said. “You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions.”
Brown denied the allegations, and fired back.
“Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, ‘Hey, I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here. You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions, but you don’t take responsibility.”
Though Whitman has poured millions from her fortune into Spanish-language ads, it doesn’t look like California’s Latino voters are buying it. A recent poll conducted by the LA Times and researchers at USC found that voters who identify themselves as Latino backed Brown over Whitman by a 19-point margin. During the state’s gubernatorial primary, Whitman came out strongly in favor of some of the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant policies, and favored sending National Guard troops to patrol the border before the state’s current governor beat her to it.