Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown talks about the time he first decided to run for California governor

Rick Caruso, dinner chair, welcomes Gov. Jerry Brown to the 44th annual Pepperdine School of Law Dinner in Beverly Hills, California, on March 3, 2017.
Rick Caruso, dinner chair, welcomes Gov. Jerry Brown to the 44th annual Pepperdine School of Law Dinner in Beverly Hills, California, on March 3, 2017.

California Gov. Jerry Brown delivered a speech to Pepperdine University School of Law’s 44th annual dinner late Friday in Beverly Hills.

Here’s a few memorable lines from the Democratic governor’s address:

▪ Brown said his father, former Gov. Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown, Sr., was once a Republican before becoming a Democrat. “And Ronald Reagan used to be a Democrat, and then he became a Republican.

“So, relax. These political categories are subject to change.”

▪ Brown, in his fourth term, suggested he’s probably studied more laws than anyone in the state of California. He’s signed about 1,000 laws per year, for 14 years. “Don’t ask me if I read them all!” he quipped. “I read most of them.”

Brown was first governor in 1975.

“So,” he said, “I’ve seen what I’ve done before. I’ve been able to create problems that I then later was able to solve. That’s a very good feeling.”

▪ Among the laws Brown helped write was the Political Reform Act, which voters approved in 1974, the year they also elected Brown governor. The law limits campaign contributions, required regular reporting, regulated lobbying and imposed other rules.

“It was a good law,” Brown said.

But then, years later, after he became mayor of Oakland, Brown found out that the Fair Political Political Practices Commission – a product of the 1974 measure – had rules against elected officials owning property within a certain distance of a project up for consideration.

The location of Brown’s loft in downtown Oakland precluded him from weighing in on 118 blocks of the city, and Brown ran on a platform that specifically called for redeveloping that part of the city.

“So I either had to break my campaign promise, or become a criminal,” he said. Brown decided to litigate instead, and ended up winning. “I had the great satisfaction of invalidating a rule that I helped create in the first place.”

▪ Brown said he found law school exciting. Studying for the bar exam, however, was not.

“In fact it was so boring I often would fall asleep ... And as a result, I flunked the bar the first time,” along with two of his classmates from Yale.

A young Brown took up residence on the third floor of the Governor’s Mansion where he studied and eavesdropped on political conversations.

“As I contrasted listening to these intense political conversations and reading the bar review notes, I can tell you one made my heart beat faster and one almost stopped it. And it was at that moment, as I felt the excitement of political combat, that I said, ‘You know what? I think I’ll run for governor.’ I did, honest to God.”

▪ In his earlier days, Brown said he didn’t have a lot of respect for people in power, hierarchy or experience.

Brown was 36 when he was first elected and many of his key aides were in their twenties.

“Well, I changed,” Brown, now 78, concluded. “I say ‘There’s no substitute for experience.’”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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