Points By Drew Pritt

California faces Old v. New
July 15, 2008, 2:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


In 1974, the California political landscape was filled with wannabe Governors hoping to succeed the high-flying popular Governor Ronald Reagan (R). There was then-Secretary of State Jerry Brown (D), son of the man Reagan beat to win the office. Joining Brown as Democrats in this quest initially were San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, Speaker of the House Robert Moretti, former Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty, and State Senator George Moscone. Republicans Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke and State Comptroller Houston I. Flournoy were facing off to succeed Reagan and try to hold the office for the Republicans. Eventually, Moscone would withdraw to run  successfully to succeed Alioto as Mayor. Brown would win the primary with 38%, while Alioto would get 19%, Moretti would garner 17%, Yorty would garner 10%, and four other candidates, that included U.S. Congressman Jerome Waldie (D), would get a combined total of 16%. Flournoy meanwhile would crush Reinecke, only to narrowly lose to Brown in the General Election.

So going into California’s 2010 Governor election, which candidate faces a similar situation???


Jerry Brown, who after serving as Governor from 1974-1982, is back as California’s Attorney General, since 2002, and prior to that two terms as Mayor of Oakland. He is now looking at returning to the Governor’s Mansion. He used to be California’s youngest Governor and if successful he would be the oldest. But he faces considerable opposition. As Lt. Governor John Garamendi, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former State Comptroller Steve Westly all face Brown in the Democratic Primary. The Republicans have Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and CEO & Entrepeneur Meg Whitman to choose between. Like the case with Reagan, Governor Arnold Schwarznegger, who like Reagan began as an actor, is retiring. There seems to be a void with the Republicans.

Brown in 1974 catapulted onto the scene as this young breath of fresh air. As Governor, Brown resented the fact that the Reagans had used taxpayer money to build a brand new Governor’s Mansion. Brown refused to live in it and sold it as Governor. He also came to work in a Plymouth 2 door sedan, rather than the Cadillac Limousines that previous Governors had used. During his two-term, eight-year Governorship, Brown had a strong interest in environmental issues, which were being highlighted during the decade. In 1975, Brown obtained the repeal of the “depletion allowance,” a tax break for the state’s oil industry. Brown aimed his fire at “big oil” in an era of popular environmental activism on the West Coast. Like his father, Brown, both who are Roman Catholic, strongly opposed the death penalty and, as Governor, vetoed death penalty, but legislature overrode the veto in 1977. He also appointed judges who opposed capital punishment. After a defeat for the U.S. Senate in 1982, many considered Brown’s political career to be over. During the 1980s, Brown traveled to Japan to study Buddhism, studying with Christian/Zen practitioner Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle under Yamada Koun-roshi. He served alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, where he ministered to the sick in one of her hospices.  In early 1991, Brown abruptly resigned his post and announced that he would run for the Senate seat held by the retiring Alan Cranston (D). Although Brown consistently led in the polls for both the nomination and the General election, he quickly abandoned the campaign, deciding instead to run for the Presidency for a third time in 1992, having run before in 1976 and 1980. As he campaigned in various primary states, Brown would eventually expand his platform beyond a policy of strict campaign finance reform. Although he would focus on a variety of issues throughout the campaign, most especially his endorsement of living wage laws and his opposition to free trade agreements such as North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He mostly concentrated on his tax policy, which called for the replacement of the progressive income tax with a flat tax and a value added tax, both at a fixed 13% rate, was decried by his opponents as regressive.

But Brown faces some serious challenges.

* Garamendi became the 46th Lieutenant Governor of California in 2006. He had previously been the California State Insurance Commissioner from 2003–2007, having previously been the first occupant of that office from 1991–1995. He was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior from 1995–1998. Garamendi won election to the California State Assembly in 1974, the same year Brown was first elected Governor, representing most of Sacramento County as well as all or part of seven other counties to the east and south, and to the State Senate in 1976. He ran unsuccessfully in the 1982 Democratic Gubernatorial primary, to succeed Brown, defeated by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and in the 1986 Democratic primary for California State Controller, when he lost to Gray Davis; but in 1990 he was successful in his campaign to become California’s first Commissioner of Insurance, an office that brought him much controversy due to the state seizure of Executive Life Insurance Company. Instead of seeking re-election to the Insurance Commissioner’s office in 1994, Garamendi again ran for Governor of California but lost the Democratic primary by 15% to State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, the sister of Jerry Brown. Halfway through his term as Insurance Commissioner, Garamendi announced his candidacy for Lt. Governor to replace the term-limited Cruz Bustamante (D). His wife, Patti, also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in 1992 against Richard Pombo (R). 

* Newsom has upped the ante by announcing his candidacy for Governor already. Newsom was elected mayor in 2003, succeeding Willie Brown (D) and becoming San Francisco’s youngest mayor in 100 yrs. In 2004, Newsom gained national attention when he issued a directive to the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The unexpected move brought national attention to the issues of gay marriage and gay rights, solidifying political support for Newsom in San Francisco and in the gay community, and causing several other states to change their laws concerning marriage and gay rights. Four years later, the California Supreme Court struck down the ban on same sex marriage after the City and County of San Francisco along with several other plaintiffs sued California over the ban. He was first appointed by Willie Brown to serve on San Francisco’s Parking and Traffic Commission in 1996, and was appointed the following year as County Supervisor. Newsom drew voter attention with his Care Not Cash program, designed to move homeless people into city assisted care. As Mayor, Newsom has focused on development projects in Hunters Point and Treasure Island. He signed the Health Choices Plan in 2007 to provide San Francisco residents with universal healthcare. Under Newsom, San Francisco joined the Kyoto Protocol. In his personal life, he divorced Kimberly Guilfoyle in 2005 and had an affair with his secretary Ruby Rippey-Tourk – the wife of one of his campaign aides. He became engaged to actress Jennifer Siebel in December 2007.

* Villaraigosa is the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since Cristobal Aguilar in 1872. Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles in a run-off election in 2005, in which he defeated incumbent mayor James Hahn (D). Hahn had defeated Villaraigosa in a high profile runoff in 2001.  Prior to his service as Mayor, Villaraigosa was the California State Assemblyman for the 45th District, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, and the Los Angeles City Councilman representing the 14th District. Before being elected to public office, Villaraigosa had a long career as a labor organizer. In 2007, Villaraigosa’s marital troubles and affair with a television reporter covering City Hall made national headlines. Villaraigosa also served as one of four national co-chairmen of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign. One of his most prominent moves as Mayor, which occurred early in his tenure, was to ban all road construction during rush hour in traffic-plagued Los Angeles. His other transportation related efforts have been to take charge of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he previously served as Chairman. Villaraigosa led Operation Pothole, whose goal was to fill 35,000 potholes in 14 weeks. This goal was surpassed, as 80,173 potholes were filled throughout the city. Following this success, he announced an initiative, currently in operation, to fill 300,000 potholes throughout the city. Villaraigosa believes that the city requires a strong and healthy economy to be beneficial in other areas, like housing. He has found compromises in several labor disputes, including a highly publicized hotel workers protest while he was still the Mayor-Elect. He has also supported the construction of LA Live, a multibillion dollar development by Staples Center, which will add a theatre, movie theatres, hotel, retail and restaurant space, open space, and broadcast facilities; the project has broken ground during his administration. Mayor Villaraigosa proposed placing an initiative on the ballot which will fund 1 billion dollars of affordable housing. In addition, he has infused an additional 50 million dollars into the Housing Trust Fund, created by former Mayor Hahn, which he has devoted exclusively to housing and programming for the homeless population. The homeless population has become a major issue during his administration and he has recently been appointed to chair a task force on poverty and opportunity for the United States Conference of Mayors.

* Westly was the State Comptroller of California from 2003 to 2007.  He lost the 2006 Democratic primary for Governor of California to California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who later lost to incumbent Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the November 2006 elections. Currently, Westly is California Campaign Co-chair for Obama for America and is a member of the campaign’s finance committee. During the end of 2006, Westly established the California Leadership Committee, a PAC centered on fostering the next generation of elected Democrats. At age 23 in 1981, he was elected as Northern Treasurer of the California Democratic Party, the youngest party officer ever. He was subsequently elected State Controller of the California Democratic Party in 1983, Northern Chair of the California Democratic Party in 1985, and Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party in 1987. In 1989, he was defeated as State Chair of the California Democratic Party by former Governor Jerry Brown. Despite that loss, Westly continued his activism within the party by being elected to the Democratic National Committee in 1988, as the highest vote getter, and was reelected in 1992, 1996, and 2000. Despite entering the race long after his primary opponent, Westly’s 2006 campaign picked up considerable momentum, receiving endorsements from such figures as Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, Congressmembers Grace Napolitano, Diane Watson, and Brad Sherman, State Senators Carole Migden, Martha Escutia, and Nell Soto, County Supervisor Yvonne Burke (a former U.S. Congresswoman), Assembly Members Judy Chu, Ted Lieu, Rudy Bermudez, and Nicole Parra, former Assembly Speaker and current Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, the majority of the Los Angeles City Council, and other elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels. Westly also gained the support of 85% of the major newspapers that endorsed in the race, including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Daily News, LA Weekly, Fresno Bee, and many others. Several organizations also endorsed Westly, such as the California Sierra Club, California Police Chiefs Association, California NOW, and the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association. In the months leading up to the election, Westly consistently beat Governor Schwarzenegger in hypothetical General election matchups. Westly’s candidacy also was hurt by an unprecedented multi-million dollar independent expenditure by Sacramento real estate developer and longtime Angelides patron Angelo Tsakopoulos. As election day neared, Westly’s momentum dissipated and the race tightened.  Angelides finished on election night with 48% of the vote compared to Westly’s 44%. Westly endorsed Angelides’ candidacy at a unity breakfast the morning after election night.



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