Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown, weary of agenda questions, dares reporter to ‘print half of what I say’

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with supporters at a campaign event in Modesto on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014.
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with supporters at a campaign event in Modesto on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is so far ahead in his re-election bid that he only recently started campaigning, has been asked any number of times why he hasn’t done more to lay out an agenda for a fourth term.

On Wednesday, he appeared to have had enough.

“No,” Brown said when asked at a campaign stop in Modesto to address his reluctance to discuss his plans. “Quite the opposite. I have communicated more completely to the people of California than any other governor in history.”

“How so?” the reporter asked.

Brown guffawed.

“This is my 12th year,” he said. “No one’s ever had 12 years of constant press conferences and discussions and letters and what do they call those things – state of the state speeches. Three separate inaugurations. So what don’t you know? What don’t you know that you think I could tell you now in front of all these people? Because I’d really love to get a new opening here to propound one of my many deep thoughts.”

Brown, standing in front of a red barn in the afternoon sun, pointed his index finger and talked about managing California’s water infrastructure and its budget, and he said it will be a “big job” to continue implementing prison realignment, in which the state shifted responsibility for certain offenders from prisons to county control.

However, Brown said, “You raise a point that I want to tell.”

“In back of your question is the idea that the only thing that counts is whatever happened yesterday. We want new, we want novelty, you know, we want ideological or substantive trinkets that you can report or that other people can talk about,” Brown said. “But the way you build a newspaper or a college or a state or a prison or a water project, it takes time, and taking time of a leader, of experts, of collaboration, not running over people, working with people. That’s a full-time job.”

By this time, Brown could have stopped. But it was his third campaign event of the day, following appearances in San Diego and Arvin, and the Democratic governor, despite being nearly two hours late, was on a roll.

“So I said water, I said the budget, because there have never been five years of budget stability in California,” Brown said. “So just saying that is like promising what has never been promised before, or at least never delivered.”

He discussed education challenges ranging from the common core curriculum to tuition rates at universities.

“By the way, I didn’t even mention the Delta conveyance or the storage – you know, above ground, below ground – plenty of work there, plenty of meeting with people. And then besides the water, we’ve got, what else have we got? Oh, we’ve got that train to move from north to south, I mean, getting that thing built. That’s going to take some time. I mean, that’s more than a 15-minute coffee break.”

“Now what else? You think there’s still too much time?”

The exchange went on for five minutes.

“Look, you won’t print half of what I say. You won’t. I dare you to, OK? So this whole canard about, ‘What are you going to do, Brown?’ Think about it.”

Brown got a laugh from his supporters. But in focusing almost exclusively on a $7.5 billion water bond and budget reserve measure on the ballot, Brown has rarely discussed his agenda for a fourth term.

It was just before speaking with reporters, during remarks to the crowd, that Brown offered a less explicit view about the future that is more in keeping with his style.

“A fourth term will be very different than a first term or a second term, and it will be even different than a third term,” he said. “Now what that will all be, you just, you know, fasten your seat belt, it’ll be a very exciting ride.”

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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