Brown's campaign war chest exploding

Legal News Line Jul. 3, 2008, 2:13pm

Jerry Brown (D)

Jon Fleischman

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-And the checks just keep on coming for California Attorney General Jerry Brown's campaign account, Brown 2010.

Two days after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, 40, announced the formation of an exploratory committee for California governor, Brown announced that his own 2010 campaign account - what the actual campaign will be has not been announced - increased by $124,100.

Many of the donations come from labor unions and workers groups, which are considered key campaign supporters for Democrats.

The news comes as no surprise to political commentators keeping an eye on the week of political jockeying that started with Brown's announcement of more than $200,000 raised since mid-June.

Newsom's announcement on Tuesday made front page headlines of Bay Area newspapers, but was followed by an announcement from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's on his own fund-raising efforts that are expected to add $1.5 million to his war chest. All three are believed to be top-tier candidates for governor.

Despite the political one-upsmanship, Brown is the early favorite, should he formally join the race, experts told Legal Newsline.

Jon Fleishman, publisher of the conservative Web site, said voters aren't paying attention this far out with still a presidential election coming November. But, political insiders are a different thing.

"Jerry Brown is still is the prohibitive front-runner in the Democratic primaries," said Fleischman, who is also the vice chairman of the South of California Republican Party. "He has the name I.D. in California, and the bully pulpit."

Brown, served two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983. Three times he ran presidential campaigns before becoming mayor of Oakland from 1998 to 2006.

"Brown is an icon in California politics," Fleischman said. "Frankly, Jerry Brown has done a remarkable job of changing how he carries himself. As my conservative friends say, if we see Brown on talk shows we actually leave him on. He's very interesting. Gavin Newsom we turn him off right away."

Tony Quinn, a California political analyst, offered similar praise for Brown on Thursday.

"Jerry Brown is light years ahead of everybody else," he said. "He won handily in 2006, and there is something about him that people like."

Both Quinn and Fleischman said the both mayors may soon find themselves outpaced by candidates with more financial backing and greater statewide appeal.

"After Brown, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi is in the second best postion," Quinn told LNL.

Garamendi launched an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1994.

Fleischman said both Garamendi and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer are potentially strong candidates.

"The State Treasurer has about $10 million in the bank and would also like to be governor," Fleischman said.

Historically, statewide officer holders are stronger candidates, according to Quinn, who has spent nearly four decades monitoring California elections.

"In order to get elected you need to hold statewide office," Quinn said. "The state is so huge. If you are just a mayor, either in San Francisco, or even in Los Angeles, you have a small base."

Brown, 70, and Newsom, both liberal Democrats from the Bay Area, will force party loyalists and donors to choose sides long before the nomination heats up.

"I'm sure Jerry Brown would prefer Newsom is not running but it doesn't push him backward in his standing," Fleischman said. "It does put two prominent Bay Area politicians in the same race, working to line up the same backers."

Despite the week of political activity on the Democratic front, Republican candidates are at least for now, keeping a lower profile, Fleischman said.

"It's been pretty quiet," he said. "(State Insurance Commissioner) Steve Poizner has made it clear he's running. There are other names out there, (Silicon Valley CEO) Meg Whitman certainly. I think it depends on what happens in the presidential race. It won't sort out until into 2009."

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