Gov. Jerry Brown won election four years ago by pledging to be fiscally responsible, to restore some order to Sacramento’s unruly ways and to embrace California’s diversity.
Brown has delivered or tried to deliver on his 2010 promises. Based on his performance, Brown has earned four more years, even if Republicans had offered a formidable opponent.
Having gotten over the Potomac Fever that afflicted him when he was governor in his 30s, Brown, the septuagenarian, is content to preside over the nation-state of California, which, he notes often, has the eighth largest economy in the world.
As he seeks an unprecedented fourth term, the Democratic governor remains largely unscripted and nonlinear, as he was when he was governor three decades ago.
Californians know that about Brown; he has been a public figure since the 1960s when his father was governor. He, in turn, understands Californians. He knows the Capitol is a distant place for much of the state, and that most people would like to keep it that way.
Brown, working with Democratic legislative leaders, ended the perennial budget standoffs, and kept his promise of not raising taxes without a vote of the electorate. The voter-approved $7 billion-a-year tax increase he championed in 2012 helped eliminate the structural budget deficit.
In a variety of ways, Brown has sought to shift authority from Sacramento to local government, empowering school boards and reducing prison crowding by allowing local law enforcement to deal with low level offenders. His criminal justice realignment holds promise, though it remains a work in progress.
Brown took the side of equality and against government intervention in marriage by refusing to fight the civil rights suit to invalidate Proposition 8, the initiative that sought to ban same-sex marriage.
Further embracing California’s diversity, he signed bills intended to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and provide college education for their children.
Brown is nothing if not an adept politician, portraying himself as the adult in the Capitol, while also signing most bills delivered to him by the Legislature, too many in our view. He cultivates a reputation for frugality but is a builder who embraces massive projects that come at huge costs.
He has become the leading proponent of the $68 billion high-speed rail project, and he will continue to push in a fourth term for the $25 billion twin tunnel concept to move water around the Delta to much of the rest of the state. We agree the rail project is important but remain unconvinced about the tunnels.
He understands the need for California to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas and combat climate change. To that end, he has implemented many of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ideas about renewable energy and expanded upon them. He would do more of the same in the next four years.
Because he and his administration embraced the Affordable Care Act, 3.3 million more Californians have health insurance today. That’s good for the state but costly; the expansion will cost billions more.
Voters seeking an alternative to Brown will find thin gruel served by the depleted California Republican Party.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, is not up to the task of governing 38 million Californians. A former leader of a fringe anti-illegal immigration movement, Donnelly is out of step with the vast majority of Californians on an array of issues, including immigration. Responsible Republicans including former Gov. Pete Wilson predict he would further damage the weakened GOP if he becomes the nominee.
Republican Neel Kashkari is the clear choice for voters who are dissatisfied with Brown. Kashkari, 40, a former investment banker and U.S. Treasury official, is intelligent and driven, and could force Brown to engage in discussion about economic development, poverty and other pressing issues, which would be good for the governor and the state.
No matter the opponent, Brown is all but assured of winning in November. In endorsing Brown in 2010, we wrote: “Brown doesn’t seem to have his eye on anything other than governing California. That could well result in a Jerry Brown who is more focused, engaged and independent than we’ve seen before.”
That turned out to be the case, for the good of the state.