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Governor's Race: Jerry Brown Profile

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, September 27, 2010


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At the State Capitol there's a portrait of every Governor in California's history.  On the third floor, you'll find the most polarizing painting of them all: Jerry Brown's.

"When this portrait was first put up, it was the only one up here - and so it was described as unfinished, pink and a little to the left."

Eric Tran-Thomsen is a tour guide at the Capitol.  He says while most portraits resemble photographs, Brown's is an expressionistic work, composed of thick bold lines.  It stands out. 

"People will come and see this portrait and they either love it or hate it. Most of them hate it - but some people do love it.  And I think it works much the same with Governor Brown when he was in office.  You either loved Governor Brown or you hated Governor Brown."

Brown was first elected Governor at age 36.  He's twice as old now. I asked him how he's changed:

"Well, we have less hair up here, ok?  We're getting some lines.  Not as quick as I used to be in terms of sprinting.  But I have to tell you, I know a lot more, I've seen a lot more and I have a sense of the complexity of government and how to get people working together."

The son of Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown, Jerry Brown's been in the public eye most of his life.  His resume includes terms as Secretary of State, Mayor of Oakland and now Attorney General.  He ran for President three times, went to a Jesuit seminary and worked with Mother Theresa in India. 

Few people are as familiar with Brown's political roots as Lucy Casado.  She's owned Lucy's El Adobe cafe, a cozy, family-style Mexican restaurant in Hollywood since 1966.  Jerry Brown's been eating there almost that long.

"Well, Jerry walked in here one day.  I guess he was hungry.  Laughs."

Casado recognized him because he was running for his first political office….a seat on the Los Angeles Community College Board.  They clicked, and she now calls him her adopted son.

"He's part of the family. And when he ran you know we supported him a lot.  A lot!."

Lucy Casado is 84 with a sharp wit and a keen interest in politics. Over the years, she's introduced Brown to Latino leaders, some of whom he's appointed to key posts.  She also famously introduced him to singer Linda Ronstadt - sparking a romance that got international attention.  And Brown's standing order of chicken and rice is now named for him on the menu. 

"Here's your Jerry Brown special."

"I'm cutting two articles out of the Los Angeles Times because the New York Times isn't writing about Jerry yet, to put up so that the younger people that come to Lucy's can see it."

Patricia Casado is Lucy's daughter.  At almost 60, she's still waiting tables at the El Adobe. She says Brown is still a regular customer:

"My favorite is when he comes in and the restaurant is full of people.  He just walks and stops at every table and he'll stand there and talk to them for a few minutes and then if he feels like he'll reach over and grab their chip and they're looking like, Oh my God that's Jerry Brown and he's eating your chips.  Well, you asked him a long question and he'll answer but first he's going to eat something."

She describes Brown as a fiscal conservative - even cheap:

"He's my older bossier brother, who's constantly reminding me of the future, if I even consider buying that purse or those shoes. How many shoes…you got two feet, how many pairs of shoes do you really need?   [Laughs]  Very zen.  Very zen."

Brown was famous for riding around in a blue Plymouth and living in an apartment with a mattress on the floor as Governor.  But Leo McElroy, who was political editor at ABC in Los Angeles during Brown's governorship, says that independent streak is both a strength and a weakness:

"I think Jerry's thing is I'm not going to do what people tell me I have to do because I don't like being told what I have to do."

McElroy says that may pose some problems when it comes to working with lawmakers on key issues like the budget:

"I doubt that Jerry is going to be able to build strong alliances in there.  I think most of those who are supporting him who are powers in the legislature are doing so because he's the only ballgame they've got."

Brown's plans for California emphasize green jobs as a way to revive the state's economy.  He says he'll push for a rainy day fund, cut administrative spending and begin work on the budget earlier in the year.  He promises no new taxes without a vote of the people - but has already talked about going to the voters in a special election next year.  Unions have spent millions on Brown's behalf so far this election. Critics say that'll make it difficult for him to keep his campaign promise to reduce pension benefits.

[SOUND FROM RALLY] CROWD MEMBER: "Jerry Brown, nice to have you back!" BROWN: Are you from Sacramento?  CROWD MEMBER: "We're from Winters."

He worked the crowd at a union sponsored Labor Day picnic in Sacramento and explained why he's running for Governor again:

"I love California.  And that's why at this stage of my life I want to come back to Sacramento and do everything I can to get California working again.  And I want to just say, look, you know, you can look at my record and there are little things - warts - you get a little scar tissue as you do things in life - but I'm a real person.  I'm not an advertisement."

Jerry Brown says his years in politics have changed him.  We may find out how much if he gets a chance to choose another portrait to hang at the Capitol. 

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