State Attorney General Jerry Brown, a former two-term governor and enduring fixture in California politics who was lauded by supporters as a unique visionary and denounced by critics as “Gov. Moonbeam,” formally launched his campaign for governor Tuesday.
If elected. Brown, 71, would be the only governor to succeed two actors – Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – and the only governor whose father was governor. He made his announcement on his campaign web site. Brown, whose full name is Edmund G. Brown Jr., is a Democrat.
Tart-tongued, aggressive and perpetually ambitious, Brown ran twice for president during his 1975-1983 governorship, and later again in the 1990s. In 1982, he ran for the U.S. Senate but was defeated by Republican Pete Wilson, then mayor of San Diego.
Brown was viewed nationally as innovative and ahead of his time on such issues as public transportation, alternative energy and political ethics regulation. As secretary of state, Brown pushed hard for the passage of the Political Reform Act, which is enforced by the Fair Political Practices Commission, and as governor appointed the first members the California Energy Commission, which has set national standards for energy development and powerplant licensing.
Brown, who turns 72 in April, would be California’s oldest governor and the oldest new governor in the nation, if elected.
Brown’s political career spans more than 40 years. He was elected to the Los Angeles community college board in 1966, then was elected secretary of state in 1970. In 1974, at the age of 36, he ran for governor, then was reelected four years later. After leaving the governor’s office and losing the Senate race, Brown served as a public affairs disk jockey, leader of the California Democratic Party and mayor of Oakland.
Brown, a lawyer, became attorney general in 2006 – a position his father, Pat Brown, a former San Francisco prosecutor, held 60 years earlier.
Aside from his public life, his private life also sparked interest. He was linked romantically with a number of Hollywood celebrities – including Linda Ronstadt and Cindy Williams – and his spiritual interests have included Zen, Est, transcendental meditation, vegetarianism, high-fiber cereals.
As governor, Brown refused to live in the official governor’s mansion, and instead lived in a small apartment at 14th and N across from Capitol Park. He once let reporters tour the apartment, which contained a mattress on the floor and an overflowing, hand-made bookcase.
While governor, Brown’s chief of staff was Gray Davis, who in 1998 was elected governor in his own right – and recalled in 2003.
Brown has been involved in so many public issues so often that as governor he seemed to be everywhere at once. He drew national attention as a kook for pushing such ideas as “diamond lanes” on freeways and wind and solar energy – ideas that have long since entered the mainstream. The late Chicago columnist Mike Royko dubbed him “Governor Moonbeam” and the name stuck – especially with Brown’s critics. But Royko later publicly apologized for the tagging Brown with the name.