Here’s to Jerry Brown! (On to Term 4.)

jerry-brownJerry Brown, who served his first two four-year terms as governor of California from 1975 to 1983, just after the Reagan governorship, was elected to a third, non-consecutive term in the 2010 elections.

Although Brown was regarded as a bit erratic and pie-in-the-sky the first time around (and in his three failed presidential bids), he proved himself to be a dependable and strong leader in Sacramento over the past three years.

Since Jerry Brown is the oldest governor in the state’s history and sixteen years would be a lot of governing, it wasn’t totally clear initially whether the Democrat would be seeking re-election to a fourth term. But he quickly began amassing enough money to make it obvious he would — and to deter most potential rivals from challenging him. Gov. Brown just announced today that he would be running in the open/top-two primary for governor.

So far he’s got pretty minor challengers from the Republicans. They have “interesting” perspectives, according to what the New York Times has been reporting so far.

First, there’s Neel Kashkari, who orchestrated the TARP bank bailouts while at the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008. He has reportedly raised a cool million — to Brown’s SEVENTEEN million dollars. Here was his insightful critique of the governor: “Californians can’t afford another four years of Governor Brown’s failed leadership.”

Yes, let’s recap that “failed leadership”:

The state had a deficit of more than $25 billion when he took office in 2011 and now has a surplus. The governor has also been working to persuade his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature to stock away money for a rainy-day fund.

 
Next in line is East L.A.’s State State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, with about $500,000 raised, who helpfully explained that if nominated against Brown, it would be a “showdown between socialism and freedom.”

Again, we’re talking about Third-Term Brown who last month delivered a state budget with a $4.2 BILLION projected surplus, even after proposing an 8.5% spending increase, a $1.6 billion rainy day fund, and $11 billion to pay back outstanding debts and liabilities. So yeah. Basically socialism. Nailed it. No fiscal responsibility anywhere to be found!

Governor Brown has been helped by a number of other factors to achieve his success this go-around. Among them: Democrats capturing super-majorities in the Assembly and Senate (enough to pass tax hikes on their own and to pass reforms to reduce the budgeting tangle) to avoid sparring with Republicans unwilling to raise any taxes whatsoever, despite massive state debt that emerged under the preceding administrations.

Additionally, before that happened, Gov. Brown was able to successfully take a tax hike directly to the voters of California in 2012 — a very rare win for a tax increase at the ballot box, and a sign that voters approved of Brown’s approach to repairing the damaged budgets. That extra money, from voters before the 2012 elections at the mid-point of his third term, and from legislators after 2012, has been key to turning things around.

After that, maybe some credit goes to reducing the right-wing primary threat against moderate Republicans, as the New York Times asserted last fall. They suggested that the moderate Republicans were free to be moderate again, but that ignored the already rising numbers of Democrats in the legislature. So I don’t know if I believe the electoral reforms did as much for the system as is being claimed. California wouldn’t have been as gridlocked in the past decade in the first place if Schwarzenegger hadn’t vetoed so much stuff from the Democratic majorties or sent it to public vote because he was too chicken to lead one way or the other. 

The successes of the past three years ultimately still ties back to Brown’s leadership abilities. I’d say most of the credit goes to electing a very qualified and unusually experienced Democratic governor who doesn’t feel any need to grandstand — because Jerry Brown already got to do that in the 1970s and 1980s. This time, he just leads and people follow. The results speak for themselves.

He hasn’t been perfect, of course, but, in my estimation, Jerry Brown Version 2 is the best thing to happen to California in the past two decades. Here’s to a fourth term.

And to — let us hope — finally updating some of the outdated water politics/policies for the new century and new climate. No pressure.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.
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