Earlier this week, I took a look at the candidacy for Republican Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. Today I will discuss her Democratic rival Jerry Brown, who I saw last Friday at a campaign rally at USC with President Obama, Barbara Boxer, Jamie Foxx, Mayor Villaraigosa, and many other politicians.
Jerry Brown, 72, is the current California Attorney General. He epitomizes “career politician.” His father, Pat Brown, was a popular California governor from 1959-1967 (he defeated Richard Nixon after he was VP and failed to win his the presidential election). Jerry served two terms as Governor before I was born (1975-1983) , as well as terms as CA Secretary of State, Mayor of Oakland, and even sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1976, 1980, and 1982.
If Jerry Brown wins on Nov. 2, he will be the oldest person to serve as California governor. His supporters will say this means he has many years of political experience to draw upon, while his detractors will say that he isn’t the right person to bring new ideas to a state that needs to change its ways.
Jerry Brown has been severely out-spent by Meg Whitman in the campaign. He chose not to spend much during the summer, instead saving it for the current media blitz. Despite Brown’s comparatively small war-chest, unions have spent more than $20 million airing ads on behalf of his campaign. Public pension reform is going to be an important challenge for the next governor. Brown says that since he is close to the unions, he’s the one that can get the most concessions out of them. As the following ad illustrates, Whitman believes his relationship with unions will make him their puppet.
One strength of another term for Jerry Brown is that he will have an easier time getting things accomplished with a Democratic-controlled legislature. As I mentioned before, I’m concerned that Whitman will face the same struggles as Schwarzenegger getting key policy through the legislature. A great new ad by Jerry Brown tries to highlight the comparison (the technique will look familiar to Daily Show fans):
With a fiscal deficit of $19.1 billion, it’s a crime that neither candidate has presented a detailed plan to address California’s economic woes. Instead, discussions have focused mostly on mini-scandals that I think aren’t even worth writing about (A Brown associate calling Whitman a “whore” on a voicemail, Whitman’s firing of an undocumented housekeeper). For me, the choice comes down to who I think will do the most for economic and fiscal reform. Due to his age, Brown is pretty much guaranteed to retire after serving another term or two as Governor. Maybe he will turn maverick and turn this ship around to add to his legacy. Or he will protect the status quo and California will continue to sink. Maybe Whitman will bring her job-creating business experience and make real change. Or she could just run into the same struggles as Schwarzenegger and fail to get much accomplished thanks to a hostile legislature.
I think a line by Meg Whitman in one of her recent ads sums up the choice best: “I know many of you see this election as an unhappy choice between a longtime politician with no plan for the future and a billionaire with no government experience.”
According to models developed by polling-guru Nate Silver, Whitman currently has only a 6% chance of winning, down from 10% just a couple of days ago. So let’s hope Brown goes Maverick and uses his relationships with Democrats in the legislature to make painful choices and real reform.