The Governor's Race Still a Mystery

It's 2010, and we elect a new governor in November, but the shape of the field is still unclear as both parties jockey to find the best candidate to steer our troubled state, and the Democrats' one choice is still avoiding open battle.

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Attorney General and former Governor Jerry Brown is still not officially-officially running for governor, but he's seen as the Democrats only candidate and only hope. But the San Francisco Chronicle wonders if he can be so relaxed about actually, you know, running for governor and still beat the GOP:

some veteran politicos see Brown as a political genius, who can run a quirky shoestring campaign, and still beat Whitman, Inc. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, described Brown as "probably the smartest politician I ever worked for."

OK, but Brown has not faced a competitive race since 1982 when Pete Wilson beat him in a race for the U.S. Senate. Brown later won races for state Democratic Party chairman, Oakland mayor and state attorney general - which means he's won more seats than the rest of us chickens - but running for governor is different. And 2010 is not 1974.

Brown's strength is that he is not a predictable liberal. Alas, that's because his positions can be fickle and self-serving...As Stern also noted, the general election against Whitman could be a complete toss-up: "We don't know what kind of campaigner she'll be. We don't know what kind of a campaigner he'll be."

Republicans on the campaign trail have mocked Brown's curiously zen approach to non-campaigning with a "Where's Jerry?" chant. And when Brown has made public statements lately, even some of his fans aregetting nervous, as per the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

If Jerry Brown's keynote speech last night to a gala environmentalist dinner is any indication, the Democratic Party faces an uphill battle to win this year's governor's race. The rambling, alternately vague and academic, and often pointless address did little to inspire or excite a large, sympathetic crowd that was loaded with top Democrats. In fact, some party luminaries were openly aghast at the poor performance, with one making this succinct (if off-the-record) assessment: "We're f***ed."

Brown has never been a dynamic speaker, but the unscripted, half-hour speech - given at the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter's David Brower Dinner in San Francisco, a $250 per head affair that drew top Bay Area Democrats - illustrates the danger of letting a primary be decided by legend and money rather than political persuasion.

On the Republican side, backers of Meg Whitman want the GOP to get unified to beat Brown right now...by having Whitman's primary opponent Steve Poizner just quit right now. And a liberal advocacy group called the Courage Campaign is already targeting Whitman with a series of web-based ad attacks stressing the severe cuts in state services they think a Whitman governorship would entail.

And for the thankless job of Lt. Gov, it could be dropped-out gubernatorial candidate and San Fran mayor Gavin Newsom. His announced opponent City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is spreading the word that Newsom recently didn't even know what the lieutenant governor does. (Does anyone?)

Previous City of Angles blogging on the gubernatorial race here and here.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Steve Rhodes. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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