Understanding Gov. Brown
(page 1 of 3)
First of two parts
From the time two years ago when Jerry Brown told us he was going to run for governor again, I was sure he would win.
My first contact with him was in the summer of 1967 when Jerry telephoned me at my office in San Francisco because I was chairman of a planned convention of California Democratic club members. The convention was intended to create a primary challenge to President Lyndon Johnson if he did not take steps toward a peace settlement in Vietnam, as urged by Senators William Fulbright, Bobby Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy and others. "How do I get involved?" Brown asked.
I told him he should get elected as a delegate from a local Democratic club, which he did. He made his maiden speech at the convention in Long Beach in September and was easily nominated as a potential delegate for what eventually became the campaign of Sen. Eugene McCarthy.
I was delighted to have Edmund G. Brown Jr., son of a popular ex-governor, involved in the campaign and I named him Southern California vice chairman. But when we flew to a western states Democratic conference in Phoenix, to my disappointment he insisted on being called "Jerry Brown" on his badge, as he did later as an alternate delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Sen. McCarthy liked Jerry because he could speak Latin, both having been youthful seminarians. It was symptomatic of Brown's eclectic curiosity that he majored in classics at UC Berkeley and resided in International House, before moving on to Yale Law School.
When a community college district was created for Los Angeles County in 1969, Jerry was ready to make a political move and became one of 124 candidates for seven trustee spots. I was the independent chairman of a Los Angeles County endorsing convention which proved a triumph for him. This time running as Edmund G. Brown Jr., he won the endorsement and the election by wide margins.
When the long-time Secretary of State died leaving only an interim incumbent, Jerry - then only 33 - ran in 1970 for this low-visibility office. Since the position was responsible for election oversight, Jerry became a knowledgeable and visible champion of election law reform, and drafted the California Fair Political Practices Act which he vigorously enforced to the chagrin of legislators and major contributors.
Being young did not handicap Jerry in 1974, when he faced Assembly Speaker Bob Moretti, Congressman Jerry Waldie, San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto and shipping magnet William Matson Roth in the Democratic primary for governor. He asked me to become vice chairman of his campaign, responsible for volunteer organization. At a memorable strategy meeting in a friend's Berkeley living room, which included Kathleen as the Northern California coordinator, I asked Jerry how much money was budgeted for the grass roots operation. He answered with his fingers, forming a "zero."