Clinton's endorsement puts Brown's rival 'back in the race'

Chris Rizo Oct. 6, 2009, 4:51pm

Bill Clinton (D)

Gavin Newsom (D)

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's endorsement of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for California governor won't likely hurt rival Attorney General Jerry Brown's campaign, a leading analyst said Tuesday.

On Monday, the former president in Los Angeles endorsed Newsom in the 2010 Democratic primary for governor. In making his endorsement, Clinton did not mention Brown, whom he had battled for the 1992 Democratic U.S. presidential nomination.

Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at California State University-Sacramento, told Legal Newsline that it is unusual for a former president to endorse a candidate in a contested primary for governor of California, especially this early in a race.

She said it was unlikely Clinton's move would derail momentum that Brown has created.

"But it does give legitimacy to Gavin Newsom's campaign," which has been lagging in the polls, O'Connor said. "This puts Newsom back in the race - at least for now."

She said Clinton's support could be especially helpful to Newsom in moderate swaths of Southern California and in the Central Valley, where Clinton is popular and voters might be leery of the liberal-minded San Francisco mayor.

"People do like to have opinion leaders endorse someone they are uncertain about," O'Connor said.

Brown, during the hard-fought campaign against Clinton, accused the former Arkansas governor of "funneling money" to his wife's law firm for state business.

Newsom supported Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House in 2008, before the former first lady exited the race. Clinton's endorsement comes as Newsom is lagging in the polls and in fundraising.

Last week, Brown, who has not officially entered the 2010 race but who is widely considered the frontrunner, formed an exploratory committee to run for governor, a move that allows him to collect up to $25,900 in campaign cash from individual donors. Before the filing, contributors to Brown's AG campaign account were limited to $6,500 per person per election cycle.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is unable to seek reelection because of term limits. Brown, who was California governor from 1975 to 1983, held office before the term limits law was enacted, thus allowing him to run again.

Brown was the mayor of Oakland, Calif., from 1998 to 2006, before being elected as the state's chief legal officer in 2007. He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for U.S. president in 1976, 1980, and 1992.

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