1. Anne Gust Brown
Welcome back, Anne Gust Brown. She was our No. 1 for years during the final two administrations of her husband, Gov. Jerry Brown. We pushed her to No. 2 last year amid numerous reports from people who know that Anne was disengaging from day-to-day governance — unofficially, she’s always been Jerry’s top adviser and confidante — and was focusing on the couple’s 2,500-acre Colusa ranch. But Anne returns to the top spot following the death earlier this year of Jerry’s longtime associate Nancy McFadden, our No. 1 in 2017, who essentially ran the cabinet and California’s sprawling bureaucracy from her perch in the “Horseshoe.” Following McFadden’s passing, there was a power vacuum in the Horseshoe, insiders say. Not now: Anne, again, is functioning as the governor’s chief of staff, chief organizer, general factotum and adviser during the remaining months of his term. And the endgame is not going to be smooth: California is embroiled in two-dozen lawsuits against the federal government on immigration and environmental protection, among other issues; the state’s wildfires are consuming lives, property and budget resources; and Jerry’s dream for the high-speed bullet train and the Delta tunnels project is running into rough patches. So Anne has her plate full, but if past is prologue, the odds are that she will be instrumental in pushing through the bulk of the governor’s program before he leaves office in January 2019. After that, the timing may not be right for Jerry to run for president for a fourth time (he’ll be 82 in 2020), but one rumor we like is that he intends to run for mayor of Colusa. If he’s elected, you know Anne will be there, as chief of staff.
Updated Aug. 15, 2o18