Brown's comeback: What makes him tick
(page 1 of 2)
Second of two parts
Except for occasional encounters over the next post-gubernatorial decade, we saw little of Jerry Brown while he tried everything from a radio show to helping Mother Teresa. In 1989, we supported his re-entry into politics by his election as Democratic Party State Chairman, but he seemed bored by the mechanics of politics.
In 1992, Jerry's sister, Cynthia Kelly, asked us to help in his latest presidential campaign (Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas were the other primary candidates), starting with energizing the stalled preparations for a San Francisco rally. We favored him because he was advocating a strong list of reforms for both the party and the nation and we were impressed by his capping individual campaign contributions at $100. Jerry was always concerned about possible embarrassing failures and, before the rally he kept calling in for crowd reports until he drove up to be greeted by a tremendous ovation at jam-packed Justin Herman Plaza. The place was packed with an estimated 6,000 fans, and a later rally in Santa Rosa's Courthouse Square was crammed to capacity and broadcast on C-Span.
Jerry launched a populist campaign initially dismissed by the media and much of the Democratic Party leadership, but his flat tax/value-added tax proposals won support from major media and he rolled up a string of minor primary victories before taking second place in Michigan, which effectively eliminated Tsongas. He went on to win the Connecticut primary, narrowly defeating Clinton and his poll numbers kept climbing. But then Brown suggested he might consider Jesse Jackson as a running mate. He was widely criticized, his poll numbers plunged and he won no more primaries.
But while the campaign lasted, the Sixth Congressional District became Brown territory and Kathleen and I were both nominated and elected to be two of his four district delegates in 1992. At the New York national convention, we became floor leaders for his large California delegation. Georgia Kelly, now living in Sonoma and founder of the Praxis Peace Institute, was another Brown delegate.
After that last try for the presidency, Jerry tried out various public interest pursuits - including that talk-radio show and a stint in Calcutta with Mother Theresa - until he surprisingly announced he was running for mayor of Oakland, winning easily twice. He succeeded in convincing voters to adopt a strong mayoral system of city government, set up specialized charter schools, and drew investors to revitalize neighborhoods thought to be hopeless. Then, four years ago, he was elected California Attorney General, a position he employed to fight against big oil, big tobacco, and for consumer rights, all in the public eye. That was when he started informing old friends he was going to run for governor again.
Jerry was unfazed by reports of the tens of millions of dollars being poured into the election hopper by his potential opponent Meg Whitman, or by slippage in popularity of the national Democratic Party.