Jerry Brown Makes It Official In California (Again) : It's All Politics Former California Gov. Jerry Brown wants his old job back.

Jerry Brown Makes It Official In California (Again)

Was it only 36 years ago? hide caption

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Was it only 36 years ago?

California Attorney General Jerry Brown -- a former two-term governor, secretary of state, and mayor of Oakland (not to mention a three-time unsuccessful presidential hopeful) -- announced today in a video on his Web site that he is once again running for governor:

The political breakdown in Sacramento is threatening jobs, our schools and the state's credit rating, which is the worst in the country.

Our state is in serious trouble and the next governor must have the preparation, the knowledge and the know-how to get California working again. That is what I offer and that's why I'm declaring my candidacy for governor.

Here's the video:

Brown has long been considered the Democratic frontrunner -- in fact, he's the only serious Democrat running, now that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom long ago ended his candidacy. (Newsom is running for lt. gov.) Brown, who turns 72 next month, has been quietly raising millions of dollars in his quest, and polls show him ahead of either of the two leading Republican candidates, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Both Republicans are wealthy and have been dipping into their own pockets for their campaigns.

Whoever wins the race has his or her job cut out for them: a $20 billion deficit, rising unemployment and a seeming inability for government to work. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is barred from running again because of term limits; both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

Brown, son of the late two-term Gov. Pat Brown (1959-66), won his first stint as governor in 1974, after eight years of Ronald Reagan. He won a landslide re-election four years later. His tenure was marked by what some saw as unorthodox behavior, and at times he seemed more interested in the White House than he did in Sacramento. His 1976 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination was exciting but came too late to stop Jimmy Carter, and his 1980 bid -- against President Carter and Sen. Edward Kennedy -- fell pretty flat. He could have sought a third gubernatorial term in 1982 but instead decided to run for the Senate. He was defeated by Pete Wilson, a Republican.

He made a third presidential bid in 1992, running as an outsider and winning a couple of primaries, but ultimately never coming close to beating out frontrunner Bill Clinton.

Brown has already been attacked as the ultimate insider, having been around for so long. But, in a clear reference to Schwarzenegger, he said today that turning to an outsider may not be the way to go: "Well, we tried that and it didn't work."

A One-Term Pledge?: Joel Fox, who writes the Fox & Hounds California political blog, raises and dismisses the rumor that Brown persuaded Newsom to drop his gov. bid by offering to support him for LG, and then pledge to serve only one term, giving Newsom an opportunity for 2014. But, Fox admits, it's intriguing:

The one-term piece of the arrangement struck a chord. Could that be a device the soon to be 72 year-old Brown would employee to convince California voters that this turn through the governor's office would be dedicated to cleaning up the mess before he rides into the sunset?

Voters are fed up with Sacramento's failures and are bound to be grumpy with all the candidates for governor. Pledging to make sure things are made right by sacrificing oneself on the altar of a one-term pledge could benefit Brown. ...

Declaring to be a one-term governor is an expression that you want to solve problems and tackle the hardest issues with no concern for future electoral office. You could take on special interests without concern for their support in future campaigns. As with [John] McCain, such a declaration would soften the liability of the age issue that Brown faces. ...

But ...

Here's the kicker: This scenario assumes that Brown does not have ambitions for more elections, which in his 40 years in politics has never been the case.

Here are two Jerry Brown questions I've been saving for today. The first is from Helen Baer of San Francisco:

Jerry Brown was first elected governor 36 years ago, and now he's set to run again. If he wins in 2010, would he be the state's youngest and oldest governors?

Yes on both. Brown, who was born on April 7, 1938, was 36 years old when he was first elected governor.

Here's the second question, from Clay Robinson of Georgetown, Ky.:

If Jerry Brown were to secure the nomination and then win another term as governor of California, would the intervening number of years since his last term in office be the longest period of time between gubernatorial terms ever served by the Chief Executive of any state?

I love this question. Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes, and I'm sticking with that until proven otherwise. But I'm not certain. Walter Hickel was elected governor of Alaska as a Republican in 1966 and then came back as the candidate of the Alaska Independence Party to win another term in 1990, a span of 24 years. Happy Chandler (D) of your state of Kentucky was first elected in 1935 and won another term 20 years later. George Wallace's (D) first win in Alabama came in 1962 and his last one was in 1982, also a span of 20 years, but he did win two terms in the interim.

So I think that, if Brown wins this year, it will be a new record. Does anyone know for sure?

UPDATE: No sooner did I post this than an e-mail arrived from John Ogulnik of Washington, D.C., who reminds me -- and I can't believe I forgot! -- of Cecil Underwood. A West Virginia Republican, Underwood was first elected governor in 1956 and then again in 1996 -- 40 years later!