November 3rd, 2010
03:32 PM ET

How Jerry Brown got back in the governor's saddle

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Jerry Brown is ... the most interesting comeback politician ... in the world.

He is, at least, the most unconventional of the 2010 midterm election.  Brown, who is the state's attorney general, defied the odds on Tuesday and took back the governor's seat that he held from 1975 to 1983. 

"As you know, I've got the know-how and the experience," he told a cheering crowd in Oakland.

"Jerry Brown came across as elder statesman; there was nothing flashy about Jerry," L.A. Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez told "He kept saying, 'I'm old enough. I'm ready to do this.' The Jerry Brown of the 1970s would not have been elected today. We had a movie star [in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger], now we want someone serious, we want a grandpa."

The 72-year-old's quirky, man-of-the-people approach once earned him the nickname "Governor Moonbeam." This time around, Brown constantly reminded voters that he is the son of Pat Brown, considered one of the greatest leaders the state has ever had. 

But that doesn't preclude Brown' s campaign from having a few laughs. Take a look at this Dos Equis-inspired campaign ad , sponsored by the California Democratic Party, that began airing just days before the election.

A voice similar to the one in the beer commercials shows old footage of Brown: "He tended to the poor with Mother Teresa/He marched in the fields with Cesar Chavez/He served two terms as governor - just for practice. He's Jerry Brown. And there are some things you might not know about him."

One message that everyone definitely knows Wednesday is that money cannot guarantee an election win. Brown's  opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, shattered records by spending $140 million of her own money on her campaign. She bought an entire TV channel for the weekend at the GOP state convention's host hotel in March, according to the L.A. Times.

Rodriguez said it was unlikely that Whitman's big spending did her in. 

"It was really the business with the housekeeper that hurt her," the columnist said, referring to a Mexican maid who worked for Whitman. The maid was in the U.S. illegally, which Whitman said she didn't know. The maid tearfully told reporters that Whitman had fired her when the housekeeper revealed her immigration status.

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Filed under: California • Jerry Brown • Meg Whitman • Politics
soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. ally

    I didnt vote for him...but sadly i live in california....yes go ahead and seriously thinking of moving out of this crazy state.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCal

      Buh-bye! You won't be missed!

      November 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • lrcastill

      don't let the door hit you on your way out hahah

      November 3, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Get going, U Haul?

      November 3, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    Like CA had a big choice. You definitely had to hold your nose to vote for ANY of the candidates from Gov. on down. Once again, it is business as usual in the now tarnished Golden state. Some one turn out the lights...the party's over!!!

    November 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ross

      Hey billie – if you aren't satisfied with the qualty of candidates – why don't YOU run......

      November 3, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    This is the one election I wanted the Dems to win. California is in such an abysmal shape it will require complete fiscal collapse before they wake up and make the necessary cuts. Brown's election should speed the collapse so that the healing can begin.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MS

    How do you flush $140 million down the toilet? Ask Meg Whitman.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jc

    I don't feel the least bit sorry for Meg and her millions. It is a wasteful act to spend that much money just because you are bored and want to dabble in politics. Just because you have it doesn't me you should waste it. Plus, how can you take her seriously in the political arena....she has never voted.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris

    Hi Brian,

    You can call us Californians idiots, but the fact is that the people of California account for 25% of the entire U.S. economy. Our economy is bigger and more successful than most COUNTRIES of the world. The world's most innovative companies and people are based here. Apple, HP, Oracle, Ebay, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on and on. In fact, just about the only products this country has left that anyone on the planet still wants to buy come from the people of one state, California. So we are obviously doing something right over here.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoliGu

      Good Point. But those companies are there largely because their founders were products of the state and the state college system. In 10 years, the colleges will be so burdened with illegal immigrants that getting into a college will be difficult for most people and getting an education there will be impossible.

      Also, you had the chance to elect one of the leaders of one of those great companies, and you passed for a guy who already had a chance. I can't wait for Terminator 2, electric boogaloo at the Governor's mansion.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Illegal Immigration is a hot button topic for conservatives, but the data shows the issue is overblown. There's no indication that they will be the main reason others can't go to college in the future. In fact, the data shows that illegal immigration has subsided because of the lack of jobs. The biggest issue is that tuitions, even for state schools, are becoming too expensive for the average family to afford. California in general, is facing the same problems that every other state is facing financially. We have a deficit because of the general recession of the economy. Certainly our State government has had issues passing budgets, but we've taken steps to resolve the issue by approving a ballet measure to make passing budgets easier. We went from requiring a 2/3 vote to only needing simple majority. The reality is that no matter who is voted in, or which party they come from, there are certain irreversible trends happening in this country. The people who just gave the GOP back the house majority will be disappointed to find that the GOP can't do anymore than the Dems to reverse these trends. The blue collar middle class created after WWII is shrinking. It was never sustainable in the first place. It's not one party's fault or another really, although Nixon kicked off our global trade imbalance, if he hadn't the next guy would have. My point is that California, like most states, will most likely climb out of it's financial hole over this decade or so and be solvent again. The only difference will be the size and make up of the future middle class.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoliGu

      College is expensive because everyone wants to go. Everyone wants to go because its almost impossible to make a living as a construction worker or manual laborer. It's almost impossible to make a living with manual labor because the labor market is flooded with unskilled illegal immigrant workers competing for those jobs. This drives down salaries and kills the middle class. The failure to understand this is the central problem in this country.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. b

    Gov. Brown got the "Moonbeam" label in a cheap shot from Doonesbury. He was always ahead of his time on economics and the environment. Jerry Brown is one of the most capable and intelligent public servants in American history. Californians just showed they remember that.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • 5th Gen Californian

      You show your lack of intelligence! He had a $7 Billion surplus when he took office in 1975 and close to a $2 Billion deficit when he left office in 1983. He allowed Prop 13 to cripple the State without much of a fight. The State has never recovered from that. How is that good leadership? California is in trouble. Looks like most of the people will dance as it burns and Jerry will play the fiddle! Please go back to your state and ruin it instead of California!

      November 3, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • R

      ditto that, rank him right under Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin (Fart Proudly, Meg!)

      November 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wildcatter63

      Actually it was a Herb Cain column in the SF Chronicle
      Mr Cain regretted it to his dying day.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wendy

    Had Meg taken some of that $140 million and helped me catch up my mortgage and car payment, gotten my two-years-and-counting unemployed husband a job, and fed some of the hungry, homeless people in my community, she would have gotten my vote. She could have ended many of the problems by writing a check! Don't get me wrong – I'm not thrilled about Jerry either, but the $140 million is what lost my vote.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carol

    Brown is a true public servant. After being CA governor twice, then missing on the US presidential nomination 4 times (and not getting to sleep on the floor of the White House as he wanted to), he took on the thankless job of being Oakland's mayor for years, then returned to state government as the Treasurer. He's a real problem-solver, and that sounds perfect now. I doubt the housekeeper thing had much to do with this - Brown had too much depth and a good record as governor for Whitman to match (even with all those bucks).

    November 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TallinOK

      Jerry Brown wouldn't know how he stands on an issue even if he looked at his feet. I grew up in California and between his dad, Pat Brown, and himself, they did more to damage California then any other elected officials in that office.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • 5th Gen Californian

      Ignorance is what got him elected. You just proved that!

      November 3, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      Ya, Oakland is JUST great, its one of the scariest cities in CA. The crime there is unbelievable.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mulkie

    i wish jerry brown was elected gov. of my state... we just got some one really scary susana martinez. i will switch with you!

    November 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • 5th Gen Californian

      I wish he was there too!

      November 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. PoliGu

    Congratulations California. Same old Governor, same old results. My kids will look at me funny when I tell them there once was a state named California.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Audrey

      That's because it will be the nation of California.

      Seriously, the best thing we could do is cut the rest of you losers loose

      November 3, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • NorCal

      They will say that because ignorance is inherited.

      November 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • W.N. Sanabria


      Conservatives blame Jerry Brown for CA's problems, but we've had 3 Republican governors since he left office, including the current lame duck. It's just as ridiculous as bashihg Jimmy Carter, who also left office 30 years ago rather than Bush whose budget was still in place a year ago. Can you folks take some responsibility for the screwups of the guys you elect?

      November 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoliGu

      Inherited ignorance is apparent in the fact that one generation of voters just elected the same person that their parents elected and are expecting different results.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoliGu

      Didn't mean to claim R or D was better. Just that this guy was the same.

      November 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bailoutsos

    "a movie star [in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger], now we want someone serious, we want a grandpa." ___ Did you forget Reagan? He was both.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Howard

    I'm a Californian, and I'm embarrassed to come from a state that would elect Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. According to Einstein, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. I guess California will go deeper in the hole now.

    November 3, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ross

      You sound like a typical republican – spew garbage with no facts!

      November 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • W.N. Sanabria

      That's funny coming from people that just turned over the Congress to the same folks who created the mess that almost took us to a depression. The English philosopher Samuel Johnson was talking about second marriages, but it certainly applies here. "Second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience."

      November 3, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Howard, I am California born and raised and am 72 years old, seen a lot but I have to bow to the other poster here in responding to your weird post;

      "That's funny coming from people that just turned over the Congress to the same folks who created the mess that almost took us to a depression. The English philosopher Samuel Johnson was talking about second marriages, but it certainly applies here. "Second marriages are the triumph of hope over experience."

      November 3, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Robert

    The difference between Governor Brown and most politicians is that he is intelligent!

    November 3, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. vicky

    He was once called Governor Moonbeam – oh well, now we can call him Grandpa Twilight!

    November 3, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
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