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Jerry Brown strikes populist chord in California gubernatorial race

OAKLAND — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown unveiled a new, populist line of attack Saturday by portraying himself as the defender of working Californians against Wall Street business titans profiting off the woes of ordinary people.

In his speech to Service Employees International Union members, Brown repeatedly linked his Republican rivals, and in particular front-runner Meg Whitman, to corporate interests, who he said had sent the nation's economy into recession.

"We hear from a lot of conservative circles: It's the people who work for the people, the firefighters, the nurses, the hospital workers, the janitors, these are the people who caused our problems — not true," Brown told a gathering at Oakland's Marriott City Center hotel and hundreds more around the state via a video link.

"The folks of Wall Street who cost the United States over $11 trillion, they've created the problem," he said. "And we are the ones who suffer."

Whitman, the billionaire former CEO of online auction firm eBay, has pledged to cut back the state's welfare program and has targeted state employees in her speeches, accusing them of defending their benefits and compensation despite multibillion-dollar state budget deficits. The other major Republican gubernatorial candidate, Steve Poizner, has also pledged to take on public employee unions if elected.

By contrast, Brown trumpeted giving state employees collective bargaining rights when he first served as governor, from 1975 to 1983.

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