Jerry Brown says he's ready to lead California, again

Jerry Brown, California's attorney general and former two-term governor, made it official Tuesday: He'd like a third crack at the governor's job.
Screen grab from, Democrat Jerry Brown announces that he has entered the race for California governor on his web site on Tuesday.

Jerry Brown, the former two-term California governor and the state’s attorney general, officially announced his gubernatorial bid Tuesday on his website. Without any major Democratic challengers, Mr. Brown will likely face one of two wealthy Republicans in November who say their business backgrounds better prepare them to tackle this state’s deep economic crisis.

But in his videotaped announcement, Brown said it was his long political résumé, which includes his stint as governor from 1975 to 1983, two terms as mayor of Oakland, Calif., and several presidential bids, that gives him the ability to undo what he called the state’s “poisonous” partisanship.

“I’ve seen our government from every angle -- when it works and when it doesn’t work -- and it’s no secret that Sacramento isn’t working today,” said Brown.

Brown’s announcement comes as little surprise, as he’s long hinted about his interest in returning to the office. With San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom having ended his bid last year, Brown is essentially assured the Democratic nomination. (For Monitor coverage of Newsom's exit, click here.)

Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, is the Republican frontrunner. State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, himself a former Silicon Valley tycoon, is also seeking the Republican nod. Both candidates are pouring millions of dollars of their own money into their campaigns. (The Monitor wrote about the vast amounts of money already being spent on the California governor’s race here.)

Either Ms. Whitman or Mr. Poizner would likely outspend Brown, who has a reported $12 million in the bank for his race. Still, according to the most recent Rasmussen Poll, Brown is currently tied with Whitman.

“Jerry Brown has had a 40-year career in politics, which has resulted in a trail of failed experiments, undelivered promises, big government spending, and higher taxes,” Whitman said in a statement, responding to Brown's announcement.

Poizner said the election “will be about the future of California, not the past.... We cannot fall prey to the same high-tax policies and special-interest-run government that has led our state into a fiscal disaster.”

But in his announcement Tuesday, Brown played up his political career. In an apparent dig at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), he said it was time for the state to forgo the notion that political outsiders are its best hope. “Well, we tried that, and it doesn’t work. We found out that not knowing is not good,” he said.

Brown has often been viewed as an iconoclast in American and California politics. He was dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” for suggesting that California launch its own satellite, he rented an apartment instead of residing in the governor’s mansion to save money, and drove his own car.

“Jerry Brown is the most unusual politician I've come across in 50 years of politics,” Joe Cerrell, a Democratic analyst, told the Monitor in 2006.

Brown, a septuagenarian, is certainly taking a risk in his attempt to lead California at a time when the state has a record high unemployment rate and faces a $20 billion budget shortfall this year.

But, he says, “At this stage in my life, I’m prepared to focus on nothing else but fixing this state I love.”

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