"Fresno's not so awful when you need our money." Shouted one protestor through a megaphone.
Inside at the $500 to $1,000 a plate luncheon, Whitman addressed her recent statement to the San Jose Mercury News, in which she said "Fresno looks worse than Detroit. It's awful." She acknowledged it didn't go over well, and explained, "I made a comparison between Fresno and Detroit. It wasn't all that well received but what I was trying to say, what I meant to say, what was absolutely imbedded in those remarks is that it is not acceptable Detroit has a lower unemployment rate than Fresno."
At a news conference after the event I asked her if she had an "awful" time in Fresno. She laughed and repeated; "What I was referring to is how awful the unemployment rate here is higher than the unemployment rate in Detroit and I feel awful about that."
Whitman's message to her supporters was that she wanted to create jobs in California, but at the same time cut 40 thousand government jobs. "The truth is it takes one private sector job to support 25 jobs in the public sector and so we have no choice but to shrink government because it's a government we can no longer afford." She said.
Whitman said she hoped the economy would improve enough so those out of work government employees who don't retire can get jobs in the private sector.
The 100 or so protestors marching outside included many union representatives who support Whitman's opponent, former Governor Jerry Brown. Union leader Randy Ghan, of the Central Labor Council was skeptical of Whitman's claim she would boost the state's economy and create jobs.
"She's gonna run the state into the ground as she did with several companies she was with. Laying tens of thousands of people off." Ghan said.
Whitman has spent more than one hundred million dollars on her campaign. The latest polls show her in a dead heat with Brown. She acknowledged Brown had closed the initial gap between them, but said she was doing well, considering Republicans are a minority in California. "We are in a dead heat. It's a very close election but I feel great about where we are."
Whitman was accompanied by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who she called a "role model."
The fundraiser was held at the offices of Harris Construction, in East Central Fresno.