Newsom's withdrawal called a boon for AG Brown

Chris Rizo Nov. 1, 2009, 11:00am

Jerry Brown (D)

Willie Brown (D)

Gavin Newsom (D)

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's abrupt exit from the California governor's race is a boon for state Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is considering a run for the job he previously held, a leading political figure said Sunday.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown -- a former powerful, longtime state Assembly speaker and fixture in California politics -- said it was only a matter of time before Newsom had to exit the race given his lackluster poll numbers.

"Although Attorney General Jerry Brown comes out the early winner in Newsom's withdrawal, I have to believe there are many Democrats out there who still say, 'Can't we find someone with a newer paint job?'" Brown wrote in his weekly San Francisco Chronicle column.

Mayor Brown mentioned two possible Democratic gubernatorial candidates: wealthy U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, and Maria Shriver, the wife of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection.

On the Republican side, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Congressman Tom Campbell, are vying for the GOP nomination.

Attorney General Brown, 71, has not officially entered the governor's race.

He has, however, formed an exploratory committee, which allows him to collect up to $25,900 in campaign cash from individual donors. Before the exploratory committee was formed, contributors to Brown's AG campaign account were limited to $6,500 per person per election cycle.

Newsom's withdrawal from the race comes just weeks after a Field Poll showed him trailing Brown by about 20 points.

Steve Kinney, a partner at the national polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, told Legal Newsline last month that Brown is the "odds-on-favorite" going into the Democratic primary unless U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., decides to run.

He cautioned: "Jerry (Brown) has a very soft underbelly based on some of his past antics that can make him vulnerable."

Brown was California governor from 1975 to 1983, being nicknamed "Governor Moonbeam" for some of his progressive ideas.

On Sunday, California politics blogger Brian Leubitz said Brown is not "unbeatable" in the Democratic primary.

"Jerry Brown has a lot of inherent advantages in the race, yet he's certainly not unbeatable. Brown could yet lose to a well-funded candidate, especially if that well-funded candidate was a minority, a woman, or a combination of the two," Leubitz wrote on Calitics.

As for Harman or Shriver running for governor, he said those two would have their own challenges going forward with a statewide run.

"Harman carries baggage with the base, and the word on the street is that she may not be able to self-finance her campaigns going forward," he said. "Shriver carries some baggage of her own, principally from being married to a rather poor governor."

Brown held office before the state's term limits law was enacted, thus allowing him to run again. He was the mayor of Oakland, Calif., from 1998 to 2006, before being elected as the state's chief legal officer in 2007.

Brown unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nominations for U.S. president in 1976, 1980, and 1992.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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