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Governor Jerry Brown's Style

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When then-candidate Jerry Brown kicked his campaign for Governor into high gear the past Labor Day, he told a Sacramento crowd it was time for big changes:

"We gotta start fresh."

Brown promised a more collaborative approach:

"We're going to call all 120 legislators together.  We're going to focus on this budget.  We're going to go down each issue and we're gong to bring in groups, business, labor, and we're going to talk about it.  It's like a big collective bargaining."

Six weeks into his third term as Governor, Republican Senator Tony Strickland says Brown seems to be following through:

"Oh, I think he's very refreshing.  The fact is he's now met with our caucus I think four or five times.  In the time that I was in Sacramento, I think Arnold met with our caucus one time. So I think it's very refreshing to have the open dialogue and the exchange of ideas."

GOP Assemblyman Jim Nielsen was a state Senator when Brown served his second term as Governor in the late 70's and early 80's. 

He says Brown has evolved from an abstract thinker to a more focused politician.  He calls Brown's efforts to reach out on the budget "unprecedented."

"And he's attended many many things that I have been at in areas that he normally would not go to, like the agricultural industry receptions and such.  His first term around his relationship with the agriculture was not very cordial and he's reaching out everywhere and I give him credit for that."

Evan Westrup works for Brown.  He says the Governor's style is very different from his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was always surrounded by heavy security:

"You'll often see him in the halls.  He has no problem going upstairs and meeting with legislators directly in their office.  You'll frequently see him without a large entourage."

Westrup says Brown is typically unscripted when it comes to speeches and he doesn't use Teleprompters: 

"I'd describe his style as very unpretentious.  He does drop in and he wants to talk about the substance of issues.  You know, he gets right to the point."

That's Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg.  In recent history, budget deals have been forged primarily between the top four legislative leaders and the Governor in a process known as the "Big 5." But Steinberg says he doesn't expect Brown to focus on that this year:

I think there'll be fewer big 5's because Big 5 is actually more of a formality in a way.  They're substantive, but what I've seen thus far, is he wants to have conversations all the time and not necessarily scheduled conversations."

Democratic Senator Mark Leno says Brown's approach has changed the vibe in the Capitol, and he thinks it may even help move the budget process along:

"He's walking down the hall alone, he enters rooms alone and he surprises people.  That's disarming in and of itself.  All of that style, all of that surface can actually permeate to the core of the challenge before us."

GOP Senator Bob Huff says he's enjoyed chatting informally with the Governor.  But he isn't convinced Brown's casual, straightforward style will prove successful when it comes to the budget:

 "A lot of times it has less to do with your positions than with the relationships you've built so that you can articulate well the messages and find that common ground to move forward and I believe that he has those tools.  Whether or not he can pull it off is yet to be seen and I think he's going to have as much or more problems with his own party than he will with us."

Brown is still working to convince lawmakers to adopt a budget similar to his proposal, which includes deep cuts to most areas of government and the extension of three tax increases.  He faces an early March deadline to put the tax measure on the ballot. 

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