SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday is widely expected to officially announce he wants to be governor once again.
For months the former two-term governor has been coy about his plans to run for the office he held nearly three decades ago. In the fall, Brown told Legal Newsline that he was carefully considering whether he could help solve the Golden State’s financial woes before he would commit to entering what will surely become one of the closest watched governor races in the nation.
Brown, 71, is the only expected Democratic candidate vying to succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as the state’s chief executive. As the Democratic nominee, Brown would challenge either Republican former eBay CEO Meg Whitman or state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the November general election.
Brown was California governor from 1975 to 1983. He may seek another two terms as governor because he was governor before term limits were enacted. He has run three times for president and once for U.S. Senate.
Brown was the mayor of Oakland, Calif., from 1998 to 2006, before being elected as the state’s chief legal officer in 2007. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for U.S. president in 1976, 1980 and 1992.
Brown’s father, Pat Brown, served two terms as California governor.
Political observers say Brown has moved more to the center since his days as California governor in the ’70s, when he was nicknamed “Governor Moonbeam” for some of his progressive ideas.
Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University, told Legal Newsline that Brown has shifted politically.
“He really has evolved,” O’Connor said. “This is going to be a fascinating race. Jerry is an aggressive campaigner, very hands-on and he will be out there talking to folks.”
Brown made his evolution well known when he spoke to Legal Newsline. He said California’s regulatory framework “burdens” businesses and the courts, pointing to the California Environmental Quality Act of 1970, signed by Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan, as an example of how a law’s reach can grow exponentially over time, and lead to a range of lawsuits.
The law requires environmental and other impacts, such as historical and aesthetic ones, to be considered when projects are proposed.
“The whole framework of law is crucial for the operations of business enterprises,” Brown said. “But when over prescriptive, it creates a huge and growing amount of overhead and it does seem that we’re reaching the point of counter-productivity.”
California’s legal climate ranks in the bottom 10 of states. The state was ranked 44th in an annual survey by Harris Interactive of states’ legal climates from the perspective of in-house corporate counsel around the nation.
Then in a lengthy speech to the 7th Annual General Counsel West Coast Convention this fall he told corporate legal officers that California’s volumes of environmental and workplace laws and regulations creates unnecessary litigation.
“We are moving every year to add more and more legal prescription to our lives, to our organizations, to our businesses and how we all function,” Brown said, estimating that the state has about 30,000 more laws today than when he was governor.
“We’re overlaid too much with too many rules,” Brown said. “The real challenge for lawyers and legislators and chief executives is to do no harm and to add to the system ways that give more elbow room, more flexibility, more discretion, more judgment.”