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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown promoted his record in turning around the California economy during a debate with his longshot Republican challenger Thursday night, in which the two sparred over the state's business climate, a contentious teacher tenure law and whether Neel Kashkari's business experience makes him qualified to lead the state.
Kashkari has made income inequality a central theme of his campaign and he accused the governor of overselling California's comeback, saying millions of Californians are still trapped in low-paying or part-time jobs and too many poor children attend failing schools.
Brown noted that since retaking office in 2011, he has turned years of multibillion dollar budget deficits into a surplus and restored nearly all of the 1.4 million jobs lost during the recession.
"Our state was in a shambles, they were calling it a failed state," Brown said. "Well, it's back. It's not all the way back, and he likes to create the false construct that if we're not perfect, we're not making progress. We are making incremental progress."
Kashkari accused the Democratic governor of focusing on frivolous issues, noting bills that passed the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year include a statewide ban on plastic bags, regulating school football practices and allowing dogs on restaurant patios.
"But what they're not working on is rebuilding the middle class," Kashkari said. "The governor said we're making incremental changes. We're 46th in education, we're 44th for jobs, we're number one in poverty. The time for incrementalism is long since passed, governor."
In drawing on his decades of political experience, including two previous terms as governor from 1975-83 and serving as state attorney general and mayor of Oakland, the 76-year-old governor contrasted his record with that of the novice Kashkari, 41. The former U.S. Treasury official is best known for helping lead the federal bank bailout and has never before run for office.
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