San Francisco mayor and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom today threw down the gauntlet to Attorney General Jerry Brown, proposing a series of debates after Brown inched closer Tuesday to officially declaring his candidacy.

The two Democrats are widely believed to be the frontrunners in the 2010 primary for governor, though Brown has not yet officially entered the race. He announced the formation of an exploratory committee for governor on Tuesday.

“Our state is in need of real reform–we have a broken system that must be fixed,” Newsom said in a statement released by his campaign this morning.

“And now that there are two candidates for governor, we owe the Democratic voters of California an opportunity to compare our visions and platforms side-by-side,” Newsom said.

Newsom proposed 11 debates in each media market in the state.

Brown, who has for several months come tantalizingly close to announcing his intentions, still was having none of it today, according to his senior political advisor Steven Glazer.

“As you may know, Attorney General Brown is not a declared candidate for governor,” Glazer said in a prepared statement. “While he has processed the paperwork to create an exploratory committee for that office, he is currently focused on doing his job as attorney general–protecting consumers and prosecuting criminals.”

The statement went on to say that should Brown declare his candidacy for governor, “I’m sure he would support the notion of holding debates under terms to be mutually agreed upon by the candidates.”

In an interview by phone, Glazer added, “I don’t expect him to decide until next year.” Brown has until March to file papers.

The establishment of an exploratory committee, however, allows Brown to boost his fundraising. His ostensible campaign for reelection as attorney general only allowed a $6,500 maximum donation per person, while he is now allowed to raise up to $25,900 per person for governor.

According to the California Secretary of State, Brown had already amassed nearly $7.4 million in campaign funds by June 30, while Newsom’s campaign had about $1.2 million.

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