In a series of sharp exchanges, Schwarzenegger and Angelides differed over higher education fees, taxes and the state of the middle class.
Angelides said fees at the California State University and University of California systems have risen by thousands of dollars under Schwarzenegger, a Republican. Schwarzenegger noted that college fees rose dramatically under his predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, and that he has capped them this year.
He also attacked Angelides as wanting to raise billions in taxes if he is elected Nov. 7.
"I can tell by the joy I see in your eyes that you love to raise taxes," the governor said to Angelides. "Why don't you just say right now, 'I love increasing your taxes.'"
Angelides said his plan was to raise taxes on the wealthy and close corporate tax loopholes, in part to help California balance its budget and fully fund education.
"Who can you trust to do the right thing by middle-class families in this state?" Angelides said.
Angelides contrasted the California in which he grew up with the one he sees now, where middle-class families struggle to pay health care, college and other costs. He vowed to provide "a different vision" from Schwarzenegger and "put the government back on the side of working people."
The governor noted the difference between California's economic situation today and three years ago, when Davis was ousted amid a record budget deficit.
Schwarzenegger said he has worked to reduce the deficit, strengthen the state's credit rating, improve the business climate and "make us shine again."
The debate, coming on the third anniversary of the historic recall election that swept Schwarzenegger into office, provided the campaign's first direct exchange between Schwarzenegger and Angelides, allowing a format in which the candidates could question each other. Those exchanges provided periodic fireworks.
After Angelides spoke on array of issues — against the Iraq war, accusing Schwarzenegger of failing to secure sufficient homeland security funding, criticizing the governor for plans to overhaul state pensions — Schwarzenegger shot back with a family reference.
"I feel a little bit like I'm having dinner with Uncle Teddy at Thanksgiving," the governor quipped, referring to Sen. Ted Kennedy, the uncle of his wife, Maria Shriver.
"He's a great man," Angelides shot back. "If my grandmother could hear me being compared to a Kennedy. ..."
The candidates did not differ sharply on immigration, with both calling for some kind of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who already are in the United States.
Angelides rejected the idea of a fence along the border, instead saying he would lobby the Bush administration to provide more border guards. Schwarzenegger said the country needed a way for companies to "legally hire people from outside the United States."
The state treasurer has been the underdog since emerging from a bruising Democratic primary fight against state comptroller Steve Westly. That race drained his campaign funds. He has battled ever since to redefine himself, in part by trying to fashion himself as a champion of the middle class.
Schwarzenegger spent much of September highlighting bipartisan agreements with bill signings throughout the state. He has also shown a huge fundraising advantage.
Recent polls have given Schwarzenegger leads of 10 and 17 percentage points.
The debate at Sacramento State University was sponsored by the California Broadcasters Association.