Brown rakes in campaign cash

Legal News Line Jul. 1, 2008, 4:21pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown's recent fund-raising points more toward a run for the state's top spot rather than a defense of the post he now holds.

Brown, 70, raised more than $200,000 for the "Brown 2010" campaign in June, at a time when other big name Democrats appeared to be jockeying into position for the chance to succeed Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaign finance papers show.

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held an invitation-only champagne reception in a San Francisco Union Square department store, which reportedly raised tens of thousands in contributions, while taking attention from the city's mayor, Gavin Newsom.

Newsom, who in May said he was considering a run for governor in 2010, basked in his political victory of legalizing same-sex marriages during this weekend's Gay Pride Festival in San Francisco.

But Brown remains the biggest name in the California Democratic Party.

A statewide poll taken in April showed Brown in the lead among possible candidates.

Brown's previous two-terms as the governor of California (1975 to 1983) and his three presidential campaigns, in 1976, 1980 and 1992, give the attorney general a national profile, and national fund-raising power, that could dwarf his potential opponents.

Almost as telling as the amount of money that Brown raised in June was who made the contributions, namely labor unions for carpenters, plumbers and state prison guards, groups that have an interest in California's next governor.

According to the California Secretary of State's records, Brown's campaign war chest had $851,209.20 at the end of 2007.

Brown's early political career was marked by his leftist leaning and youthful popularity. He followed Ronald Reagan as governor of California at the age of 34. He refused to move into the governor's mansion, completely remodeled by the Reagan's, choosing instead to sleep on a mattress on the floor of his rented apartment.

His populist message, open interest in philosophy and occasional relationship to pop star Linda Ronstadt boosted his appeal with voters.

Once derided as "Governor Moonbeam" for his assertion that California might develop its own space program, Brown adjusted with the times while maintaining ardent support for the environment and public education. He nimbly remains a maverick leader of the party despite now being one of its elder statesmen.

Brown has so far refused to commit publicly to run, but as early as August of last year, he told the Sacramento Bee that "the thought has certainly crossed my mind."

At that time Brown said he wouldn't give it any further thought until next year. But if Brown's strong June fund-raising is any indication, Brown could soon become far more vocal about his intentions for 2010.

Schwarzenegger cannot run again in 2010 because of term limits. Ironically, Brown, also a two-term California governor can run under state law, as his terms ended before the limits were enacted.

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