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Meg Whitman targets Jerry Brown's support for undocumented students in Northern California campaign stop

October 16, 2010 |  9:19 pm

Meg Whitman's statewide bus tour was in Northern California on Saturday, concluding a three-city swing at the Black Bear Diner in Redding, where she bought a stuffed teddy bear and ordered "Bob's Big Bear Burger" with cheese and fries, to go.

Whitman's stop came as Sarah Palin stumped for Republicans in Anaheim, an appearance Whitman pointedly skipped as she tries to appeal to centrist, undecided voters. She sidestepped questions about Palin and kept the focus on her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown.

After working the late-lunch crowd from behind the counter and sitting with customers in their booths, Whitman used a brief news conference to attack Brown for his support for legislation that would ensure public university access for undocumented students.

"News flash to Jerry Brown: We do not have unlimited resources," Whitman told reporters. "We are in a budget crisis. We are going to have to make some very tough tradeoffs and [university] slots are being cut for citizens. And the fact that he wants to put undocumented ... immigrants ahead of the taxpayers of California, I just think is wrong."

She added: "Either he doesn’t recognize that we are in a budget crisis or he’s pandering for votes. I bet he’s pandering for votes."

Earlier in the day, Whitman received warm welcomes from voters at the Cozy Diner in Chico, where a supporter presented her with a carved pumpkin that read, "MEG 2010." She told one group of customers, "I'm not a politician. I just want to say it like it is."

Afterward, she stopped at a local fruit stand, where a tow-truck driver paid for her purchase -- three yellow peaches and a bag of seedless grapes. "You never know who's going to show up at your local fruit stand," Whitman told customers as they gathered for pictures.

Later, she toured the Dairyville Orchard Festival in Los Molinos, where she bought a bag of walnuts and posed for pictures in front of tractors. State Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and former Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, both clad in cowboy hats, escorted her around the fair.

Her toughest opposition came from a teenager who said her proposals would mean cuts to education. Whitman quickly explained that she wanted to reduce administrative overhead and put more money into the classroom, before LaMalfa grabbed her by the hand and led her toward the bus.

-- Michael J. Mishak in Redding