Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown chooses sides in another Dem-on-Dem Senate battle

Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, during session in the Senate chambers on March 11, 2013.
Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, during session in the Senate chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee file

For the second time in two weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown has waded into a legislative fight between two Democratic candidates. On Tuesday, he extended his usually rare endorsement to state Sen. Jim Beall, who is facing a reelection challenge from Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a fellow San Jose Democrat.

“Jim Beall is a real leader. He has what it takes to get the job done,” Brown said in a statement. “I'm proud to endorse him for reelection.”

It’s unusual for a politician to take on an incumbent from their own party. When she announced her campaign in March, Campos, who terms out of the Assembly this year, cited a “disconnect” between Beall and the voters of his district, as well as a need for more women leaders.

The race has since become a proxy battle over legislation last year to reduce the impacts of climate change, which Beall supported and Campos did not until a provision mandating a reduction in petroleum use was stripped out of the bill. After oil companies put more than $300,000 behind Campos during the primary, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer launched an independent committee to back Beall.

Nervous about Beall’s prospects, the Senate also reversed its ban on fundraising during final budget negotiations and the end of session, so that Beall could keep pace with Campos. He ultimately won nearly half the vote in primary, while Campos garnered 27 percent, and has taken a lead in major contributions, with $53,100 raised in the past month to Campos’ $18,700, according to campaign finance filings.

In an interview, Campos said she disagreed with the governor’s endorsement, which she attributed to the political establishment not wanting to shake up the status quo.

“When you get comfortable in a position and you’re never challenged to engage with the people, then you eventually just get in this cruise control,” she said. “I still believe I am the best candidate to lead this district into the future.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff