WILLIAMS, Calif. — Jerry Brown’s quest for state office began more than 45 years ago in Los Angeles and ended Saturday afternoon in the small town square of Williams, the pleasant farm-belt community where Brown’s ancestors settled in the 19th century.
In between, Brown, 76, served a term as secretary of state and three terms as governor, ran for president three times, ran the state Democratic Party, served as mayor of Oakland, lost a race for the U.S. Senate and worked as a radio talk show host. He dated celebrities, he traveled to Africa and India, he drank beer in a hole-in-the-wall tavern across from the Capitol, he ate Mexican food in a modest restaurant on Melrose across from Paramount studios. He served as a fount of new ideas on energy, campaign reform, technology, government finance, even space travel. He made enemies.
“I proposed a satellite for California. I even talked about inhabiting outer space,” he said. “That’s how I got the name ‘Governor Moonbeam.’”
But in Williams, 60 miles north of Sacramento, Brown held his last campaign rally for state office as he seeks a historic fourth term as California governor.
Numerous relatives – including his sister, Kathleen, who ran for governor in 1994 — were in the audience of several hundred people, many dressed in baseball caps, jeans and windbreakers, a sort of uniform. For many of them, Brown is a familiar figure, spotted frequently in local restaurants and stores. His family ranch, about 2,500 acres, is west of town, founded by his great-grandfather, August Schuckman, in the mid-19th century. Schuckman arrived when he was 25 and lived into his 80s.
Much of Brown’s final campaign appearance was devoted to his family tree.
“But I don’t want you to feel that this is some walk down memory lane,” he added, urging support for Propositions 1 and 2 on Tuesday’s ballot. The first finances $7.5 billion in water projects; the second sets up reserves for the state budget and for schools. The two are the cornerstones of his final campaign.
So what now?
Brown, ever cautious and always ambitious, isn’t saying. One assumption is that he intends to retire on his ranch, but Brown quickly ruled that out. “Who said anything about retirement?” he told one person at the rally.
“I’ll finish when I’m 80, I think – at least finish this job,” he told the audience.
If he’s done with state office, that leaves local government or the feds.
Rumors are rife.
One is that he’ll run for mayor of Williams. Another is that he’ll seek Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in 2016. Another is that he’ll run for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat in 2018, when Brown wraps up his fourth term as governor.
Whatever he decides, it’s all just part of his life’s journey.
“We are only here for a while and we pass on – and that’s the story,” he said.