Brown plays the real post-partisan

Thomas Elias - Redding Record Searchlight

We've got to bring people together. There's poisonous partisanship at work all around the country. There's also a general grumpiness and the governor is often the recipient of howls of execration. But I love the excitement and adventure of taking a stalemate and moving it to a consensus. I've brought people together before and I can again.

Jerry Brown was in the conference room of a large law firm talking to about 30 of the well-heeled supporters who have provided him enough money to drive off all early competition on the Democratic side of the 2010 run for governor - even before he officially becomes a candidate.

The meeting came just about a week after the California attorney general attended a fundraiser for the Republican district attorney of San Bernardino County. At the time, he was being raked for this break in strict party politics by his now-departed Democratic rival, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Brown, Newsom's campaign charged, "slept with the enemy" by helping the conservative DA, Mike Ramos, raise campaign money. This unfortunate metaphor inspired some San Francisco newspaper readers to reflect on Newsom's own admitted adulterous history. "Newsom would know about adultery, wouldn't he?" observed one.

Brown wasn't about to tweak his competitor that way, but he was unhappy with the exchange. "It shows how far we've gotten from the old civility," he said, noting he believes Ramos is a sound prosecutor and that law enforcement figures often cross party lines to help each other. As attorney general, Brown is nominally the state's top lawman.

This dialogue between the campaigns, Brown contended to his backers and in an interview the next day, showed what any new governor will have to overcome in order to get things done in Sacramento.

"We need consensus," he said. "We can't make things work unless we can get people to agree on the basics."

That, he said, is why he's running for governor even though he'll be 72 by the time of next year's vote and realizes that getting elected governor "is more like a crucifixion than a coronation."

He jokes that he's perfectly suited for the job, because "you need someone who has no political future."

Brown definitely has a political past, as governor, state party chairman, Los Angeles Community College board member, mayor of Oakland and unsuccessful candidate for both president and the U.S. Senate.

Essentially, he's saying that while he's not beyond partisanship, he can work with Republicans. In fact, he says that's a big reason why he wants another crack at the office he held for eight years in the 1970s and '80s.

"We've got to bring people together," Brown told his supporters. "There's poisonous partisanship at work all around the country. There's also a general grumpiness and the governor is often the recipient of howls of execration. But I love the excitement and adventure of taking a stalemate and moving it to a consensus. I've brought people together before and I can again."

He cites the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act as a leading example from his earlier days as governor. "We got the (United Farm Workers) union and the growers together and got them both to compromise," he said. "Sure, there might have been some buyer's remorse later, but it's actually worked pretty well ever since."

The prospect of more challenges like that one plainly stimulates this former seminarian. "These things tax one's intellect and emotions," he said. "It's an honorable calling and I don't see a lot of expertise in doing it (among other candidates)," he observed. "The embedded conflicts in everything from water to the environment and public pensions and the budget take a very knowledgeable, patient, empathetic person to resolve. I may not have all those qualities, but I love the process."

Read the remainder at Redding.com.

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