Analyst: Brown gearing up for gubernatorial run

Legal News Line Jul. 2, 2008, 7:15pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)--In politics, it is never too early to prepare for an election, even for a 70-year-old veteran like California Attorney General Jerry Brown.

While a pesky thing like a presidential election still stands between California voters and the chance to choose a successor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger, political heavyweights like Brown, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are already rattling sabers.

Though none are expected to formally announce any time soon, each has made public movements to bolster energy around a potential candidacy. On Tuesday, the same day news reports released June fund-raising figures for Brown, Newsom announced the formation of an exploratory committee.

On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that Villaraigosa "finished off a fundraising sprint Tuesday, gathering checks at 12 fundraisers in the past 11 days" in a push aides expect to raise $1.5 million.

"The fact is they are all jumping in early," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, "which doesn't mean there won't be others joining later, but it does show who is serious right now."

O'Connor told Legal Newsline that Vallaraigosa's recent fund-raiser in San Francisco is an example of how the potential candidates are already trying to round up endorsements and set the bar very high for other possible candidates.

"It's analogous to what went on with the primary with Hillary," O'Connor said. "But as we saw, that doesn't necessarily predict success."

Though Newsom is the only candidate to start an exploratory committee, O'Connor expects more maneuvers soon.

"Jerry Brown will be doing something shortly, I'm sure," O'Connor said. "His capability of raising money is quite high and has a long history of doing it. He is clearly carving out the people's crusaders role, which is what he has always done in whatever role he is in. ... This is a long and well developed role."

Dan Schnur, a Republican media consultant, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Brown and Newsom would be the early front-runners for the Democratic nomination, but overall, he believes Newsom will win.

"The conventional wisdom is that the same-sex marriage issue is a double-edged sword for Newsom," Schnur was quoted as saying, "but I'd argue that it makes him the most likely Democratic nominee. An issue like this in the Democratic primary gives him an ability to break out of the pack."

O'Connor is less certain.

"It's way too early," she said. "Too many variables, like another person jumping in. We have a long list of people we know well. I suspect we'll see plenty of others. It's the most crowded field for two years out I've ever seen."

O'Connor is certain about one thing. Brown will make a formidable opponent for any other challenges, Newsom included.

"Jerry will certainly be a player," she said. "But I think it's less because of money, but because of his long-standing issues on issues, and not just gay marriage and homelessness. He has a portfolio that goes back a long way. For him these are not whimsical political moves."

O'Connor said Newsom's recent high-profile positions on illegal immigrants and gay marriage work well in his city, but may not work in a statewide election.

Brown, she said, has a proven track record, which also includes being a mayor of a big city. Brown was Oakland's mayor from 1998 to 2006, in addition to serving two terms as governor of California (1975 to 1983) and running for president three different times.

"He's a different breed of cat from the others," O'Conner said. "Some love him for it, others hate him, but he is pretty well established by this point."

Brown has helped stir interest in a possible run for governor before. In a speech before the state Democratic convention in March, Brown said, "I don't do too much these days except sue people. But someday maybe I'll get around to doing more than that, and hopefully you'll help," according to the Sacramento Bee.

A spokesman from the attorney general's press office said Brown has nothing further to announce on his future political intentions at this time.

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