Brown, Newsom square off at Democratic convention

Legal News Line Apr. 27, 2009, 1:48pm


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown stood alone against the full force of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign for governor in 2010 during this weekend's state Democratic convention. Political analysts agreed the veteran politician was more than up to the task.

Brown has not announced his candidacy, though continues to raise money, millions to date, and acts very much like a man running for governor in 2010 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is termed out of office.

This weekend he went head-to-head with Newsom, who announced his high-powered techno campaign last week. Brown hosted a "Recession Reception" in the governor's mansion on Saturday where delegates packed the historic house. Newsom, with full campaign team in tow, hosted a street party among other high-profile events, including a fireside chat with bloggers.

In a speech that pundits have said was typically smooth and effective, Newsom framed the upcoming fight with Brown, who leads in all polls over Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as a race between old politics and youthful vision.

"Will we offer Californians a stroll down memory lane?" he said. "Will we embrace the past, or will we embrace the future?" The California Progress Report reported.

But political analysts from said Brown more than held his own, while Newsom's attack missed the target.

"Portraying Brown as the political status quo is like trying to paint Mick Jagger as musically obsolete," the analysts wrote. "For starters, Brown is still the smartest guy in the room, and trying to outflank him as the avatar of ideas, new or old, will be a tough sell among those who tend to vote in Democratic primaries."

Newsom's initial burst of activity is designed to convince voters he is the standard-bearer of modern politics, California's answer to President Barack Obama, never mind the pesky problem that Newsom was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Brown meanwhile has called himself the "apostle of common sense," and a "meat-and-potatoes guy" who has the practical experience of having been governor already from 1975 to 1983 to build bipartisan coalitions in the Legislature, a move calbuzz believes will play well with voters.

"Voters fed up with Governor Arnold's shattered promises to 'blow up boxes' and sweep clean the mess in Sacramento may well be in the mood for less 'change' and more common sense, which happens to be Brown's political meme du jour," according to calbuzz.

The contrast, as calbuzz points out, is evident at every turn, especially with Newsom's carefully planned events right down to a speech on a teleprompter compared to Brown's rapid-paced, sure-fire, impromptu comments on virtually any topic.

Brown even went so far as to challenge Newsom to an IQ duel while appearing on a political radio show before the convention. Brown said he was willing to take "any test" to prove he can match any candidate on brain power. The answer was in response to questions about the "generational" differences between him and Newsom.

"If he's asserting that the year he's born... somehow makes you better than I want to him to specify: Is that because he can think faster? Is that because he sizes up people better? I mean, what does it mean? As a bald statement of chronological fast, it is not really very relevant," Brown said.

Brown, 71, ran and won in 1975 as a thirty-something young visionary, something Newsom, 41, is trying to accomplish this year; a point Brown is not shy about pointing out.

"Having been 30 and 40 and 50 and 60, I know what you know and what you don't know," he said. "I know a heck of a lot more today than I did 30 years ago."

In addition to Brown and Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also expected to end up in the race for governor. Villaraigosa chose not to attend the convention, issuing a statement instead.

"It is imperative that we act now to save jobs and protect services here in Los Angeles," it stated. "That's why I'm meeting with our city union leaders...we're going to brew a pot of coffee and roll up our sleeves to get it done. We can't solve this unprecedented economic crisis with the old politics as usual."

The writers at calbuzz weren't buying the "have to work" strategy.

"Whatever Newsom did or didn't accomplish, it was a helluva' lot better than what Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did, namely reprise Billy Bob Thorton's role in 'The Man Who Wasn't There.' No political professionals we talked to at the convention buy his consultant's spin: he enjoys the luxury of waiting until late July to launch because the electorate will be 35 percent Latino, and he'll win 90 percent of that."

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