Will rivals be foils for a canny Jerry Brown?

Thomas D. Elias - Ventura County Star

So far, the most interesting thing about the formal entry of Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown into the run for governor has been the reaction of the two megabucks Republicans now vying so avidly and expensively to be his November rival.

Or maybe to be his unwitting foil for the fall election season.

Both former eBay chief Meg Whitman and current state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner greeted Brown by calling him an old-fashioned tax-and-spend liberal.

But neither was anywhere near California during most of Brown’s previous eight years as governor. So maybe they don’t know he was the guy who often employed the terms “small is beautiful” and “an era of limits” to describe what government should be.

Or that he’s the fellow who vetoed three bills giving state employees raises — in one year. Or that he fought a raise for university professors by reminding them of their “psychic rewards.”

It was awful, griped Jon Coupal, the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in a conference call set up by the Whitman campaign, that Brown saddled several new parcel taxes upon Oakland during his recent eight years as mayor.

Yep, responded Brown, there were some of those. “Are (Coupal and Whitman) saying the people don’t have the right to vote more money for police and schools if that’s what they want?” he asked incredulously. “Every one of those taxes was approved by two-thirds of the people who pay the tax. Are they trying to tell the people what to do? Anyone who says the people shouldn’t have the right to tax themselves is living in an ivory tower. That’s fundamental to democracy.”

If other charges leveled at him this year prove as easy for him to fend off as those first ones, Brown will have fun this fall.

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