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There's a Gubernatorial Debate Tonight

Scott Lucas | September 4, 2014 | Story Politics

The only debate between California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and his Republican opponent Neel Kashkari will be held tonight. But you already knew that, right? Haven't you had the date of the only direct showdown between the two candidates circled on the calendar all summer long?

Okay, we'll admit that this year's campaign has been a bit lackluster, mostly thanks to three-term incumbent Brown's sky-high approval rating and the Democratic party's heavy registration advantage. But Kashkari, a former investment banker and Treasury Department official, has shown a talent for garnering attention (most recently by spending a week pretending to be homeless in Fresno and crashing a Brown speech to a teachers' convention), and there are some pretty major policy differences separating the candidates. Here's our quick rundown of what to watch for tonight.

Can Kashkari force a debate win? It's an uphill shot—as Kashkari's campaign manager noted to the LA Times, Brown's been at this since before Kashkari was born, and this is the challenger's first debate.

Can Kashkari get Brown rattled? Political debates are won and lost less on policy merits than on personal moments. Brown can come off as a little impatient with opponents he doesn't respect. Even the moderator, KQED's Jonn Myers, wrote today, "[Brown] can be a little testy when he senses someone doesn’t quite understand the issue." Expect Kashkari to use that to try to get the Governor to slip up.

Will Kashkari use the Tesla gigafactory loss against Brown? Even though the deal was always almost certainly going to go in Nevada's favor, and Brown mostly left the heavy lifting on California's bid to the Legislature, Kashkari may use the announcement as a chance to push Brown for being weak on business issues.

How will Brown's teacher tenue decision affect the debate? Only days ago, Brown filed an appeal to a Southern California judge's surprise decision to throw out teacher job protections on the grounds that they interfered with students' right to an education. Kashkari has already taken swipes at Brown over the appeal. Expect this to be a major flashpoint tonight.

How much argument about high-speed rail will there be? This is one of the other major policy differences between the two: Brown is in favor, and Kashkari is opposed to what he calls the "crazy train."

How many reference to long-dead Greek philosophers will Brown work in? A world in which Jerry Brown, a former seminary student, can't work in a little Parmenides or Heraclitus is a world that we don't want to live in.

Will the Packers-Seahawks game be enough of a blowout that you can change the channel? If the game is 42 to 0 at the half, go ahead and watch the debate. If it's tied, maybe flip between the two.

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