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Grass Roots With the `New, Old' Jerry Brown

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 13, 1992



SANTA MONICA, CALIF.

INSIDE the Jerry Brown national campaign headquarters here, volunteer Susan Sanders cheerily photocopies candidate position papers while about 60 colleagues scurry between phones and a half-dozen computer terminals.

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"I have never been involved in politics in my life before," says the 50-year-old local resident who donates three afternoons a week to the campaign. "I just don't believe the politicians out there can do anything anymore. Jerry can."

Just outside the front door, Kim Tyler, a songwriter and independent videomaker is donating his time and equipment to film testimonials to Jerry Brown. He will send the videos to local TV stations, CNN, and the networks.

"All the other candidates are just politics as usual, but here is a man who is putting honesty before money," Mr. Tyler says. "A lot of those of the older persuasion don't understand that."

Tyler and Ms. Sanders are just two of the grass-roots army to have come out of the woodwork in support of former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. since he won the Connecticut primary.

And in keeping with the "We the People ... take back America" signs punctuating the ochre walls here, the Brown campaign submitted a Federal Election Commission matching-fund request recently for $1,223,119 representing 21,450 contributors. By contrast the campaign of rival Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton submitted a request for $1,076,730 representing only 8,265 contributors.

"These figures highlight the fundamental difference between the messages of the Brown and Clinton campaigns," said Brown's campaign manager, Jodie Evans.

Pointing out that the Clinton campaign relies on a small number of big money contributors, Ms. Evans notes that the Brown campaign, which accepts no contribution over $100, "has brought hundreds of thousands of Americans back into the political process."

But his choice of Jesse Jackson as running mate angered New York's large Jewish population. And his unwillingness to move his campaign tactics beyond negative attacks of a "rotten, corrupt, poisoned" government in need of reform slowed the momentum he had gained earlier.

"His choice of Jesse Jackson to garner black support was a symbol of what politicians do to mobilize, manipulate, and politically strategize," says Sherry Jeffe, a political scientist at Claremont College. "That's what he pledged he wouldn't do."

All this was before Brown's backward stumble in New York. Several political pundits, pollsters, and analysts in this state where Mr. Brown served eight years as governor say they were nonplussed to find themselves using such terms as "serious" and "viable" with regard to his candidacy.

They watched Brown move from the back of the Democratic pack to score primary or caucus wins in Connecticut, Maine, Colorado, Vermont, Nevada, and Alaska, along with second-place showings in Rhode Island, Mississippi, Utah, Massachusetts, and Wyoming.