Illustration by Bela Messex.

Gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, take note: What California needs is innovative leadership, not smear tactics and attack ads.

Entrenched in one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression, California — with sliced services and wallet-breaking UC price tags — is desperate for leaders who show they can craft potential solutions. Smear ads that take stabs at competition, rather than explaining how candidates might help with our state problems, are unproductive and distracting.

Despite both candidates’ claims that they have a history of innovation — for Whitman, at eBay, and for Brown, as California governor from 1975 through 1983 — they have each turned to the same old smear tactics and attack ads that plague U.S. politics, in an effort to get a leg-up in the election.

While some have asked the two candidates to refrain from running a negative campaign, there has yet to be an agreement between the two not to do so. This makes Whitman and Brown appear desperate to do everything to reduce each other’s approval ratings, rather than running an honest campaign that would allow for good decision-making.

Furthermore, the candidates this year have shattered political spending records. The L.A. Times politics blog reported on Oct. 21 that Jerry Brown has spent $25.3 million since Jan. 1, and ABC News reported on Oct. 25 that Whitman has spent $141 million of her own money on her campaign thus far. In the midst of 12.5 percent of California’s population being unemployed, these numbers are disgusting.

Spending outrageous sums on campaigning and running attack ads do not strengthen the image of either candidate — they do the exact opposite. Fifty-five percent of likely voters said they were dissatisfied with their choices for governor, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California. By forcing voters to choose between two candidates they find inadequate, smear campaigns undermine the institution of democracy by reducing people’s faith in their elected leaders.

With the election fast approaching, there is little either candidate can do to rectify the damage they have done to the validity of their campaigns. It is likely that this election will be remembered not for the governor who took office, but for record spending and the attack ad scandals surrounding the race.