FRESNO (KCBS) – Rumors and political chatter swirled ahead of the second debate between California gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown: would Whitman’s illegal immigrant housekeeper scandal overshadow Saturday’s Central Valley showdown?

KCBS Doug Sovern Reporting:

READ MORE: French Bulldog Stolen At Gunpoint Returned To Castro Valley Family

Whitman and Brown agreed to square off in Fresno in a debate to be broadcast on a Spanish language TV network. The GOP candidate insisted the controversy wouldn’t follow her to Fresno, where she has made headway with Latino voters.

In fact, the former eBay executive suggested the scandal could work to her advantage with the Spanish-speaking audience.

“I think Latinos are really smart. I think they will see this for exactly what it is, which is one giant political stunt and a smear campaign by a desperate Brown campaign.”

She maintained a confident demeanor ahead of the debate.

“I actually think it could backfire on the Brown campaign and actually help me with the Latino community,” she said.

She was equally confident when allegations were first made public that she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant housekeeper, something she vehemently denied.

READ MORE: Big Sur ‘Colorado’ Fire Sparked By Pile Burning Operation, 50% Contained

Whitman declared that there was no letter from the Social Security Administration advising that the housekeeper’s documents were not in order.

“We never saw the letter, Nicky did bring in our mail and sort the mail. If she had gotten a letter two weeks before, alerting her to a problem and saying we’re going to alert your employer, she might have been on the lookout for that letter. I mean, it pains me to say that because gosh, that’s not the Nicky I knew.”

“We never saw any such letter. We never saw it. So they may have sent something but we never saw it.”

Whitman backtracked hours later, when the former housekeeper produced a letter which bore what looked like the handwriting of Whitman’s husband on it, addressing the housekeeper.

Whitman acknowledged that the handwriting looked similar to her husband’s. However, she added that her husband did not recall ever receiving the letter.

The question then became whether Whitman’s acknowledgment would repair any damage she may have done.

“I think it hurts her. I think she knows deep down, as well as her campaign strategist, that it’s not a good thing for her,” warned Jaime Regalado, Ph.D., director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles. “Some Latinos who were giving her the benefit of the doubt really wonder if she’s the candidate that should be backed, after all.”

MORE NEWS: Experts: Emerging Omicron Subvariant Shouldn't Delay Lull In COVID Pandemic

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)