AG Brown a no-show at Democratic convention

Legal News Line Aug. 27, 2008, 12:29pm

Jerry Brown (D)

DENVER (Legal Newsline)- As Democrats loudly and colorfully descended on Denver this week, one of its most colorful long-standing members was not among them.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a three-time candidate for president, chose not to attend the 2008 Democratic Convention.

His absence was especially noted when delegates were shown a preview of a new documentary on Brown's father, Pat, also a former California governor.

The California Majority Report, a conservative political Web site, wrote, "Jerry's sister was on hand, as were his two nieces. But no Jerry."

Brown's absence is noteworthy as he has fueled speculation that he will again run for governor of California in 2010. Brown served two terms as governor three decades ago.

All the other prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidates - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi-- are said to be at the convention.

Christine Gasparac, spokeswoman for the attorney general, confirmed Brown will be a no-show.

"He is not going to be at the convention. He's staying in California," Gasparac told Legal Newsline.

Gasparac said a "myriad of reasons" likely contributed to Brown's decision. "I don't know for sure," she said.

Perhaps the main reason for Brown's absence isn't political, but personal. Brown could well have chosen the convention week to grab some needed rest and relaxation.

Greenlining Institute General Counsel Robert Gnaizda said he met Brown at a private birthday party on a recent Sunday. Gnaizda, who is pushing for Brown's support on efforts to impose a foreclosure moratorium in the state, said Brown told him that they could possibly meet in a more formal manner after Labor Day when he returned from vacation.

Political analysts were not surprised by Brown's absence.

"He is and has been an iconoclast that doesn't play by conventional wisdom," Barbara O'Connor, director of the CSUS Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, told Legal Newsline on Wednesday. "His supporters know that about him and are attracted to it. So we can't apply the same rules to him."

O'Connor dismisses the notion that Brown's absence will benefit his potential gubernatorial contenders.

"No it won't hurt him one wit," O'Connor said.

Brown's lengthy political career has afforded him plenty of opportunities to participate on the grand stage of political conventions. In 1992, Brown waged a dogged campaign as the runner-up to Bill Clinton in 1992.

He wanted to speak at the convention, something the Clinton campaign wanted to avoid. Brown's supporters waged a protest, shouting "Let Jerry speak!" with some wearing tape over the mouths. Eventually, Brown took the podium.

Brown described the convention in a recent interview with The Rocky Mountain News.

"I felt I had a message of reform," Brown said, "and I wanted to speak at the convention. But before doing that you had to pledge your fealty, your loyalty to the winner. I didn't feel like doing that. So the only way I got to speak was to second my own nomination. It's kind of a pathetic way of doing things, but I did make the talk."

Brown's interview about the 1992 convention perhaps sheds some light on his absence in 2008.

"It's unfortunate that the great political conventions - they used to debate the issues - are now nothing more than backdrops," Brown said. "They're a form of political advertising, with all the serious issues handled backstage, in a room with media advisers, and not the hurly-burly of constituents, of all the diversity of America showing up at a raucous convention."

Brown said the lengthy primary process, which came as an act of reform to take the party nomination away from "the smoke-filled rooms who determined the nominee," has swung the pendulum too far.

"We're six months away from an election in November," Brown said in his May interview, "and yet we're already getting tired of the candidates. How much more of this can we do? So it's becoming dysfunctional, based on the reform going to excess."

When asked what advice he'd give those planning this convention, Brown again spoke more of the past, saying the pressure to script the convention and package their nominee has diminished the unruly politics of past years.

"So there we are," Brown said. "It's a great American tradition, but it sure isn't what it was a few years ago."

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