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Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown, Jr. (born April 7, 1938) is an Americanmarker politician. He is a former governor of the State of Californiamarker and the current Attorney General. Brown has had a lengthy political career spanning terms on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees (1969-1971), as California Secretary of State (1971-1975), as Governor of California (1975-1983), as chair of the California Democratic Party (1989-1991), the Mayor of Oaklandmarker (1998-2006), and the Attorney General of California (2007-present). He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for president in 1976, 1980, and 1992, and was an unsuccessful Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 1982. Since Brown's terms in office are not covered by the term limits that came into effect in 1990, he is not barred from running for Governor again, and has indicated that he plans to run for the office again in 2010.

Early life and education

Brown was born in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker, the only son of former San Francisco lawyer, District attorney and later Democratic governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr. He graduated from St. Ignatius High Schoolmarker and studied at Santa Clara Universitymarker. In 1958, he entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary, intending to become a Catholic priest. However, Brown left the seminary and entered the University of California, Berkeleymarker, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics in 1961. Brown went on to Yale Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1964.

After law school, Brown worked as a law clerk for Supreme Court of Californiamarker Justice Mathew Tobriner, and studied in Mexicomarker and Latin America.

Legal career and entrance into politics

Brown returned to California but initially failed the state bar exam. After passing the exam, Brown settled in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker and joined the law firm of Tuttle & Taylor. In the late 1960s, he entered politics by organizing migrant workers and anti-Vietnam War groups. In 1969, he ran for the newly created Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, which oversaw community colleges in the city, and placed first in a field of 124.

In 1970, Brown was elected California Secretary of State. Brown used the position, which was historically limited in power, to bring lawsuits against corporations such as Standard Oil of California, International Telephone and Telegraph, Gulf Oil, and Mobil for violation of campaign-finance laws and argued in person before the California Supreme Courtmarker.

Brown also enforced laws requiring members of the California State Legislature to disclose sources of campaign funds and investigated allegedly falsely-notarized documents that had allowed Richard Nixon to claim a large tax deduction. Brown also played an important role in the drafting and passage of the California Fair Political Practices Act. [26414] These highly-publicized actions resulted in statewide acclaim, and led to his election as governor in the next statewide election.


In 1974, Brown was elected governor of California, succeeding the Republican Governor Ronald Reagan, who was retiring from office after serving two terms, and who, himself, had become governor after defeating Brown's father, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr., in the 1966 election. Jerry Brown took office on January 6, 1975.

Opposed to the Vietnam War, Brown had a base of support from California's young liberals. Upon election, he refused many of the privileges and trappings of the office, forgoing the newly constructed governor's residence (which was sold in 1983) and instead renting a modest apartment at the corner of 14th and N Streets, adjacent to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento. Instead of riding as a passenger in chauffeured limousines as previous governors had done, Brown was driven to work in a compact sedan, a Plymouth Satellite from the state vehicle pool.

During his two-term, eight-year governorship, Brown had a strong interest in environmental issues. Brown appointed J. Baldwin to work in the newly-created California Office of Appropriate Technology, Sim Van der Ryn as State Architect, and Stewart Brand as Special Advisor. He appointed John Bryson, later the CEO of Southern California Electric Company and a founding member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, chairman of the California State Water Board in 1976. Brown reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent and appointing artists to the council.

In 1975, Brown obtained the repeal of the "depletion allowance", a tax break for the state's oil industry, despite the efforts of the lobbyist Joe Shell, a former intraparty rival to Richard M. Nixon. Brown aimed his fire at "big oil" in an era of popular environmental activism on the West Coast. The decisive vote against the allowance was cast in the California State Senate by the usually pro-business Republican Senator Robert S. Stevens. Shell claimed that Stevens had promised him that he would support keeping the allowance: "He had shaken my hand and told me he was with me." Brown later rewarded Stevens with a judicial appointment, but Stevens was driven from the bench for making salacious telephone calls. In 1977, Brown proposed and later passed a landmark tax incentive for home-owners installing solar panels.

Brown appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California governor.

Like his father, Brown strongly opposed the death penalty and vetoed it as Governor, but the legislature overrode the veto in 1977. He also appointed judges who opposed capital punishment. In 1960, he lobbied his father, then Governor, to spare the life of Caryl Chessman and reportedly won a 60-day stay for him. Currently, as Attorney General, he is obligated to represent the state in fighting death penalty appeals and stated that he will follow the law, regardless of his personal beliefs.

Brown was succeeded as governor by George Deukmejian, then the Attorney General of California, in 1982.

1976 presidential campaign

While serving as governor, Brown twice ran for the Democratic nomination for president. The first time, in 1976, Brown entered the race in March after the primary season had begun, and over a year after some candidates had started campaigning.Citing his record of having curbed his state's spending and balanced its budget while expanding services in the area of welfare, employment, and consumer and environmental protection, Brown proclaimed his belief that there would soon be a voter backlash against expansive and costly government policies. "This is an era of limits, and we had all better get used to it," he declared. Brown was viewed as more socially liberal than most candidates.

Brown's name began appearing on primary ballots in May and he won a big victory in Marylandmarker, followed by Nevadamarker, and his home state of California. Brown missed the deadline in Oregonmarker, but he ran as a write in candidate and finished a strong third behind Carter and Senator Frank Church of Idahomarker, another late candidate. Brown is often credited with winning the New Jerseymarker and Rhode Islandmarker primaries, but in reality, uncommitted slates of delegates that Brown advocated in those states finished first. With support from Louisianamarker Governor Edwin Edwards Brown won a majority of delegates at the Louisiana delegate selection convention, thus Louisiana was the only southern state to not support Southerners Carter or Alabama Governor George Wallace. Despite this success, he was unable to stall Carter's momentum, and his rival was nominated on the first ballot at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Brown finished third with roughly 300 delegate votes, narrowly behind Congressman Morris Udall and well behind Carter. Brown's name was placed in nomination by United Farm Workers President, Cesar Chavez.

1980 presidential campaign

In 1980, Brown challenged Carter for renomination. His candidacy had been anticipated by the press ever since he won reelection in 1978 over the Republican Evelle Younger by the biggest margin in California history, 1.3 million votes, but he had trouble gaining traction in both fundraising and polling. This was widely believed to be the result of the more prominent candidacy of liberal icon Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusettsmarker.

Brown's 1980 platform, which he declared to be the natural result of combining Buckminster Fuller's visions of the future and E.F. Schumacher's theory of "Buddhist economics", was much expanded from 1976. Gone was his "era of limits" slogan, replaced by a promise to, in his words, "Protect the Earth, serve the people, and explore the universe." Three main planks of his platform were a call for a constitutional convention to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment, a promise to increase funds for the space program, and, in the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accidentmarker, opposition to nuclear power.

On the subject of the 1979 energy crisis, Brown decried the "Faustian bargain" that he claimed Carter had entered into with the oil industry, and declared that he would greatly increase federal funding of research into solar power. He endorsed the idea of mandatory non-military national service for the nation's youth, and suggested that the Defense Departmentmarker cut back on support troops while beefing-up the number of combat troops. He described the health care industry as a "high priesthood" engaged in a "medical arms race" and called for a market-oriented system of universal health care.

As his campaign began to attract more and more members of what some more conservative commentators described as "the fringe", including activists like Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, and Jesse Jackson, Brown's polling numbers began to suffer. He received only 10% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary and he was soon forced to announce that his decision to remain in the race would hinge on a good showing in the Wisconsinmarker primary. Although he had polled well there throughout the primary season, a disastrous and bizarre attempt at filming a live, special effects-filled, thirty-minute commercial (produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola) led to the melt-down of his candidacy. He received just 12% of the vote in the primary. He withdrew from the race the next day, having spent $2 million, won no primaries, and received exactly one delegate to the convention.

Defeat and return

In 1982, Brown chose not to seek a third term as Governor. Instead, he ran for the U.S. Senate for the seat being vacated by Republican S.I. Hayakawa. That year, his alleged mishandling of a medfly infestation of the state's fruit farms sent his approval ratings into a nosedive, and he was defeated by Republican San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson by a margin of 52% to 45%. Republican George Deukmejian, a Brown critic, narrowly won the governorship in 1982, succeeding Brown, and was reelected overwhelmingly in 1986. After his Senate defeat in 1982, many considered Brown's political career to be over. During the 1980s, Brown traveled to Japan to study Buddhism, studying with Christian/Zen practitioner Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle under Yamada Koun-roshi. He also visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta, Indiamarker, where he ministered to the sick in one of her hospice.

Upon his return from abroad in 1988, he announced that he would stand as a candidate to become chairman of the California Democratic Party. Brown won the position in 1989 against the less experienced Steve Westly, who criticized Brown as the candidate of monied interests.

Brown experienced an abbreviated tenure that could best be described as controversial. He greatly expanded the party's donor base and enlarged its coffers, with a focus on grassroots organizing and get out the vote drives, but was criticized for not spending enough money on TV ads, which was felt to have contributed to Democratic losses in several close races in 1990. In early 1991, Brown abruptly resigned his post and announced that he would run for the Senate seat held by the retiring Alan Cranston. Although Brown consistently led in the polls for both the nomination and the general election, he quickly abandoned the campaign, deciding instead to run for the presidency for a third time.

1992 presidential campaign

When he announced his intention to run for president against President George H.W. Bush, many in the media and his own party dismissed his campaign as an ego-trip with little chance of gaining significant support. Ignoring them, Brown embarked on an ultra-grassroots campaign to, in his words, "take back America from the confederacy of corruption, careerism, and campaign consulting in Washington". To the surprise of many, Brown was able to tap a populist streak in the Democratic Party.

In his stump speech, first used while officially announcing his candidacy on the steps of Independence Hallmarker in Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Brown told listeners that he would only be accepting campaign contributions from individuals and that he would accept no contribution over 100 dollars. Continuing with his populist reform theme, he assailed what he dubbed "the bipartisan Incumbent Party in Washington" and called for term limits for members of Congress. Citing various recent scandals on Capitol Hillmarker, particularly the recent House banking scandal and the large congressional pay-raises from 1990, he promised to put an end to Congress being a "Stop-and-Shop for the monied special interests".

As he campaigned in various primary states, Brown would eventually expand his platform beyond a policy of strict campaign finance reform. Although he would focus on a variety of issues throughout the campaign, most especially his endorsement of living wage laws and his opposition to free trade agreements such as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he mostly concentrated on his tax policy, which had been created specifically for him by Arthur Laffer, the famous supporter of supply-side economics who created the Laffer curve. This plan, which called for the replacement of the progressive income tax with a flat tax and a value added tax, both at a fixed 13% rate, was decried by his opponents as regressive. Nevertheless, it was endorsed by The New York Times, The New Republic, and Forbes, and its raising of taxes on corporations and elimination of various loopholes, which tended to favor the very wealthy, proved to be popular with voters. This was, perhaps, not surprising, as various opinion polls taken at the time found that as many as three-quarters of all Americans believed the current tax code to be unfairly biased toward the wealthy.

Quickly realizing that his campaign's limited budget meant that he could not afford to engage in conventional advertising, Brown began to use a mixture of alternative media and unusual fundraising techniques which was derided at the time as "silly", but would later be dubbed "revolutionary". Unable to pay for actual commercials, Brown used frequent cable television and talk radio interviews as a form of free media to get his message to the voters. In order to raise funds, he purchased a toll-free telephone number, (the same number is still in use by Brown) which adorned all of his campaign paraphernalia. During the campaign, Brown's constant repetition of this number (at rallies, during interviews, and in the middle of debates), combined with the ultra-moralistic language he used, led some to describe him as a "political televangelist".

Despite poor showings in the Iowa caucus (1.6%) and the New Hampshire primary (8.0%), Brown soon managed to win narrow victories in Mainemarker, Coloradomarker, Nevadamarker, Alaskamarker, and Vermontmarker, but he continued to be considered an also-ran for much of the campaign. It was not until shortly after Super Tuesday, when the field had been narrowed to Brown, former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusettsmarker, and frontrunning Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansasmarker, that Brown began to emerge as a major contender in the eyes of the press.

On March 17, Brown forced Tsongas from the race when he received a strong third-place showing in the Illinoismarker primary and then defeated the senator for second place in the Michiganmarker primary by a wide margin. Exactly one week later, he cemented his position as a major threat to Clinton when he eked out a narrow win in the bitterly-fought Connecticutmarker primary.

As the press now focused on the primaries in New Yorkmarker and Wisconsinmarker, which were both to be held on the same day, Brown, who had taken the lead in polls in both states, made a serious gaffe: he announced to an audience of various leaders of New York Citymarker's Jewish community that, if nominated, he would consider the Reverend Jesse Jackson as a vice-presidential candidate. Jackson, who had made a pair of anti-Semitic comments about Jews in general and New York City's Jews in particular while running for president in 1984, was still a widely hated figure in that community and Brown's polling numbers suffered. On April 7, he lost narrowly to Bill Clinton in Wisconsin (37-34), and dramatically in New York (41-26).

Although Brown continued to campaign in a number of states, he won no further primaries. Despite this, he still had a sizable number of delegates, and a big win in his home state of California would deprive Clinton of sufficient support to win the nomination, possibly bringing about a brokered convention. After nearly a month of intense campaigning and multiple debates between the two candidates, Clinton managed to defeat Brown in this final primary by a margin of 48% to 41%. Although he did not win the nomination, Brown was able to boast of one accomplishment: At the following month's Democratic National Convention, he received the votes of 596 delegates on the first ballot, more than any other candidate but Clinton. He spoke at the convention and to the nation without endorsing Clinton by seconding his own nomination.

Jerry Brown was the first political figure to criticize Bill Clinton over the Whitewater controversy, during the 1992 Democratic Presidential primary season.

Radio show host

Beginning in 1995, Brown hosted a daily call-in talk show on the local Pacifica Radio station, KPFA-FM, in Berkeleymarker. Both the radio program and Brown's political action organization, based in Oaklandmarker, were called We the People. His programs, usually featuring invited guests, generally explored alternative views on a wide range of social and political issues, from education and health care to spirituality and the death penalty. He strongly critiqued both the Democratic and Republican parties, often referring to himself as a "recovering politician" (a phrase intended as an analogy to the term "recovering alcoholic").

Oakland Mayoral Campaign

In early 1998, Brown announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party and changed his party registration to "Decline to State". He terminated his radio show that same year in order to run for the nonpartisan office of Mayor of Oakland. All municipal and county offices in California are by law nonpartisan, but candidates can be registered with any party they wish.

Prior to taking office, Brown also campaigned to get the approval of the electorate to convert Oakland's weak mayor political structure, which structured the mayor as chairman of the city council and official greeter, to a strong mayor structure, where the mayor would act as chief executive over the nonpolitical city manager and thus the various city departments, and breaking tie votes on the Oakland City Council.

Mayor of Oakland

Within a few weeks of Brown's January, 1999 inauguration, one of his first acts as Mayor of Oakland was to invite the United States Marine Corps to stage war games titled Urban Warrior in the defunct Oakland Army Base and on the closed grounds of the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital after the National Park Service rejected the Marines' request to use Crissy Fieldmarker in San Francisco. Hundreds of Oakland citizens and anti-military activists rallied against the exercise.

Other efforts included acquiring millions of dollars in state and federal funding to open two charter schools, one of which was a charter military school.

Much to the dismay and anger of his liberal supporters, Brown's politics as Mayor of Oakland were more centrist. He explained this ideological shift as dealing with the realities of being a big-city mayor with real problems. After having left the Democratic Party because he felt that it no longer stood up for progressive ideals, Brown re-registered as a Democrat shortly thereafter. In 2000, Brown endorsed Al Gore for President shortly before the California primary.

10K redevelopment doctrine

Brown continued his predecessor Elihu Harris's public policy of supporting downtown housing development in the area defined as the Central Business District in Oakland's 1998 General Plan. Since Brown worked toward the stated goal of bringing an additional 10,000 residents to Downtown Oaklandmarker, his plan was known as "10K." It has resulted in redevelopment projects in the Jack London Districtmarker, where Brown purchased and later sold an industrial warehouse which he used as a personal residence, and in the Lakeside Apartments Districtmarker near Lake Merrittmarker. The 10k plan has touched the historic Old Oakland district, the Chinatownmarker district, the Uptown district, and Downtownmarker.

Attorney General


In early 2004, Brown expressed his interest to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General of California in the 2006 election. On May 18, 2004, he formally filed the necessary papers to begin his campaign for the nomination, including a sworn declaration with the statement "I meet the statutory and constitutional qualifications for this office (including, but not limited to, citizenship, residency, and party affiliation, if required)".

Brown had an active Democratic primary opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Delgadillo put most of his money into TV ads attacking Brown and spent $4.1 million on the primary campaign. Brown defeated Delgadillo, 63% to 37%. In the general election, Brown defeated Republican State Senator Charles Poochigian 56.3% to 38.2%, which was the largest margin of victory in any statewide California race except the US Senate in which Dianne Feinstein's opponent did not mount a strong challenge.

In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, Brown's eligibility to run for Attorney General was challenged in what Brown called a "political stunt by a Republican office seeker" (Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman and state GOP vice-chair candidate Tom Del Beccaro). Republican plaintiffs claimed Brown did not meet California's eligibility requirements for the office of Attorney General: according to California Government Code §12503, "No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office." Legal analysts called the lawsuit frivolous because Brown was admitted to practice law in the State of California on June 14, 1965, and had been so admitted to practice ever since. Although ineligible to practice law because of his voluntary inactive status in the State Bar of California from January 1, 1997 to May 1, 2003, he was nevertheless still admitted to practice. Because of this difference the case was eventually thrown out.

Norman Hsu affair

Attorney General Brown's office played a role in events surrounding prominent Democratic Party fundraiser Norman Hsu in 2007. Hsu had voluntarily returned to California in response to a 1992 warrant for failing to appear for sentencing in a fraud conviction. Brown's office negotiated a 50% reduction in bail with Hsu's attorneys, but the court did not accept the agreement and imposed the full $2 million bail specified in the arrest warrant. Additionally, Brown's office did not challenge releasing Hsu on bail without turning in his passport. After being released on bail, Hsu fled the state with his passport. Hsu was quickly apprehended by federal authorities in Colorado.

Brown received a $3,000 political contribution from an associate of Norman Hsu in 2005, and a lawsuit filed against Hsu by an Orange County investment company alleged that Brown praised Hsu at a 2006 Democratic Party event. Brown's spokesman stated that Brown may have stopped briefly at the event but did not praise Hsu "or in any way vouch for him."

Proposition 8

The State Attorney General normally argues in support of laws that have been passed by the electorate. Brown took an unusual step by declining to defend Proposition 8, a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage. On May 26, 2009 the California Supreme Court voted 6–1 to uphold Proposition 8.

2010 gubernatorial campaign

Jerry Brown at 2008 California State Democratic Convention, San Jose, California, March 2008
Brown has formed an exploratory committee in order to seek a third term as Governor in 2010, following the expiration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's current term. Brown first indicated his interest in running in early 2008. The fact he has served two terms already does not affect him because Proposition 140 does not apply to those who served as Governor before the law passed in 1990.

Electoral history

Personal life

A bachelor as governor and mayor, Brown achieved some prominence in gossip columns for dating high-profile women, the most notable of whom was the singer Linda Ronstadt.

In March 2005, Brown announced his engagement to his girlfriend since 1990, Anne Gust, former chief counsel for Gap. They were married on June 18 in a ceremony officiated by Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland. They had a second, religious ceremony later in the day in the Roman Catholic church in San Francisco where Brown's parents had been married. Brown and Gust live near downtown Oakland, at the former Sears Roebuck Building, with their black Labrador, Dharma.

Political criticism of Brown

As Governor, Brown proposed the establishment of a state space academy and the purchasing of a satellite that would be launched into orbit to provide emergency communications for the state—a proposal similar to one that would indeed eventually be adopted by the state. In 1978, Mike Royko, at the time a Chicago Sun-Times columnist, nicknamed Brown "Governor Moonbeam" because of the latter idea. The nickname quickly became associated with his quirky politics, which were considered eccentric by some in California and the rest of the nation. In 1992, almost 15 years later, Royko would disavow the nickname, proclaiming Brown to be "just as serious" as any other politician.

Voters passed Proposition 13 during Brown's tenure as governor, and Brown has been criticized for not offering tax relief to homeowners and thereby paving the way for the success of the proposition. Wrote Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post, "As incomes and property values rose, Sacramento's tax revenue soared—but the parsimonious Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, neither spent those funds nor rebated them. With the state sitting on a $5 billion surplus, frustrated Californians grumped to the polls and passed Proposition 13, which rolled back and then froze property taxes—effectively destroying the funding base of local governments and school districts, which thereafter depended largely on Sacramento for their revenue. Ranked fifth among the states in per-pupil spending during the 1950s and '60s, California sank to Mississippi-like levels—the mid-40s—by the 1990s.

In 2006, the murder rate in Oakland in the first two months was triple the same period in 2005, leading some critics to suggest that Brown had failed to make the city safer. Violent crime decreased by a third during his tenure, however, and he attempted to enact several anti-crime programs, including a night curfew for convicted felons which was not implemented. His campaigns to fix the schools, fill downtown with residents, create an "arts" city and curb crime have had mixed success.

The song "California Über Alles" by the Dead Kennedys is sung from the perspective of Jerry Brown during his tenure as Governor. The song has Brown painting a picture of a hippie-fascist state, satirizing what they considered his mandating of liberal ideas in a fascist manner. Lyricist Jello Biafra later said in an interview with Nardwuar that he now feels different about Brown, as it turned out he wasn't as bad as he thought he would be.


  3. The Huffington Post. "The OTHER Big Problem With Hillary's Notorious Remarks," by William Bradley (May 25th, 2008).
  4. Meyerson, Harold (May 28, 2009) "How the Golden State Got Tarnished." Washington Post. (Retrieved 7-22-09.)


  • Bollens, John C. and G. Robert Williams. Jerry Brown: In a Plain Brown Wrapper (Pacific Palisades, California: Palisades Publishers, 1978). ISBN 0-913530-12-3
  • Brown, Governor Jerry. Thoughts (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1976)
  • Brown, Jerry. Dialogues (Berkeley, California: Berkeley Hills Books, 1998). ISBN 0-9653774-9-0
  • Lorenz, J. D. Jerry Brown: The Man on the White Horse (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1978). ISBN 0-395-25767-0
  • McDonald, Heather. "Jerry Brown’s No-Nonsense New Age for Oakland", City Journal, Vol. 9, No. 4, Autumn 1999.
  • Pack, Robert. Jerry Brown, The Philosopher-Prince (New York: Stein and Day, 1978). ISBN 0-8128-2437-7
  • Rapoport, Roger. California Dreaming: The Political Odyssey of Pat & Jerry Brown (Berkeley, CA: Nolo Press, 1982) ISBN 0-917316-48-7
  • Schell, Orville. Brown (New York: Random House, 1978). ISBN 0-394-41043-2

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