Jerry Brown already is California’s oldest-ever sitting governor. In a matter of hours – sometime Saturday evening, his office said – he will surpass Earl Warren as its longest-serving.
The record is cumulative, spanning two different administrations in two very different times. There was Brown in his first two terms, from 1975 to 1983, whose fascination with “planetary realism” and outer space embodied a California at the boundary of culture and political thought.
Three decades later, Brown is a less idealistic, more accommodating version of his former self. The old Brown dated Linda Ronstadt and ran for president. The current one is married and owns a house.
The Plymouth is gone. The budget, Brown announced this year, is balanced.
This is not where Brown might once have imagined he would be, certainly not when he was a first-term governor brimming with possibility. But the presidency eluded him, twice when he was governor before and once again in 1992. So did the Senate, to which he lost election in 1982.
After leaving office, Brown traveled abroad, returned home, hosted a radio show and became mayor of Oakland and state attorney general.
When he was elected governor again in 2010, he became the only governor other than Warren to be elected to three terms in California. Brown’s father, Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, lost his campaign for a third term to Ronald Reagan in 1966.
Brown called himself a governor “not with a future, but with a past.”
“Now what I mean by that,” Brown said shortly after taking office, “is I’m not worried about the future, because it’s not that long.”
The distinction of being California’s longest-serving governor is one Brown may hold forever. He and George Deukmejian are the only two living former governors elected before a constitutional amendment limited chief executives to two terms, and Deukmejian isn’t running again.
“I’ve reflected on that,” Brown said in an interview in the courtyard outside his Capitol office. “I’m in a unique position, so that makes me want to do something big.”
Brown, now 75, is likely to seek an unprecedented fourth term next year, an election he is expected to win. His agenda includes policies to address climate change and the construction of water infrastructure and high-speed rail.
If the opportunities afforded by longevity are on Brown’s mind, his record’s imprint on history is less so. State government “seems big” in Sacramento, he said, but most people have other things on their minds.
“History,” Brown said, “doesn’t write about governors of California.”
The third term, in quotes
“I’m ready, I’m raring to go, and don’t expect me to leave too soon.”
“If somebody took some time off to do something, we’ll find it, but, you know, to blow it up like it’s some major thing – there are 300,000 employees in the state of California, and I’d like to watch over all of them but I think only God can accomplish that.” – On a report of Caltrans employees using state rental trucks for personal purposes
“There’s nothing wrong with being a little retread ... Not as much hair, I’m slowed down a little bit. But I have to tell you, I ran three miles in 29 minutes two nights ago ... and I hereby challenge Gov. Christie to a three-mile race, a push-up contest and a chin-up contest. And whatever he wants to bet, I have no doubt of the outcome.” – In response to criticism from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
“I’ve never seen a CEQA exemption that I don’t like.” – On the state’s signature environmental-protection law
“We are in a culture of immediate gratification – me, now, easy ... This is about us, long and difficult.”
“That’s always a dicey question, because if I admit I learned something new, then I have to admit I didn’t know something. But if I said I knew everything, then that wouldn’t be very persuasive or attractive.” – On what he learned in his first year back in the governor’s office
“You’ve got to do your homework, you’ve got to pay attention in school and you’ve got to work out.” – Advice for children
“You can’t be afraid to be called a moonbeam, weird, deviant, interesting, unexpected.” – On himself
“I couldn’t give you a stance on that because I don’t know what the hell it is.” – On an early earthquake warning bill he would later sign
“I’ll let you talk to our gnomes”
“I like to be able to go in the refrigerator in the middle of the night.”
“It’s not a burp. It’s barely a fart.”
“This is a message from outer space, and I’m going to turn it on mute now so we don’t have to worry about it.” – Upon hearing his cellphone ring while speaking at a public event
“I want to get s--- done.” – On his priorities
DECADES OF DIFFERENCE
|Sleeps on a mattress in anN Street apartment||Sleepingarrangements||Owns a $1.8 million home in theOakland hills and stays in a Sacramentoloft rented for him by private donors|
|Bachelor, dated Linda Ronstadt||Marital status||Married to Anne Gust Brown|
|Blue Plymouth sedan||Famous modeof transportation||Southwest Airlines|
|Establishes “open door” policyto the governor’s office lobby||Office access||Installs wooden picnic table in his inner office because he wants “people when they come in my office to know they’re on a hard surface”|
|Jogs, puts target weight in1981 at about 175 pounds||Exercise||Jogs, challenges reporters – and oneother governor – to fitness contests|