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.
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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.”
1938: Born on April 7 in San Francisco. His father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, is a lawyer who will later become governor.
1955: Graduates from St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He enters Santa Clara University but leaves after a year to attend Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary in Los Gatos.
1960: Leaves the seminary and enrolls at UC Berkeley. He receives a bachelor’s degree in classics in 1961.
1964: Graduates from Yale Law School.
1969: Elected to the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, the beginning of his decades-long political career.
1970: Elected secretary of state. He helps create the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
1974: Elected governor, defeating Republican Houston Flournoy.
1976: Makes the first of three failed runs for president, losing the Democratic nomination.
1978: Re-elected governor, defeating Republican Evelle Younger.
1982: Defeated by San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, a Republican, in his bid for U.S. Senate.
1988: Visits Calcutta for three weeks to feed the dying and destitute at Mother Teresa’s House of the Pure Heart, an experience he will mention frequently in public appearances in later years.
1989: Becomes chairman of the California Democratic Party, a position he would resign just two years later.
1990: Brown’s sister, Kathleen, is elected state treasurer. She would go on to run for governor unsuccessfully in 1994.
1992: Runs for president for a third time, losing in the Democratic primary.
1996: Brown’s father dies of a heart attack at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 90.
1998: Elected mayor of Oakland. He would later say his experience in local government influenced his desire to relax provisions of California’s signature environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act.
2002: Re-elected mayor of Oakland.
2005: Marries Anne Gust in a ceremony officiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
2006: Elected state attorney general.
2010: Defeats Republican Meg Whitman to win election to a third term as governor. Only one other governor, Earl Warren, has been elected to three gubernatorial terms in California. Pat Brown lost his bid for a third term to Ronald Reagan in 1966.
2011: Returns to Sacramento to confront a massive budget deficit and Republican lawmakers resistant to extending higher taxes. He fails in two major initiatives: first to reach a bipartisan budget deal and second to pass a tax plan. He backs legislation shifting responsibility for thousands of low-level offenders from prisons to county control. He turns 73, surpassing Frank Merriam, who left office in 1939, as California’s oldest-ever sitting governor.
2012: Signs legislation authorizing initial funding of a $68 billion high-speed-rail project, a priority of his administration. He successfully campaigns for a ballot initiative to raise taxes and watches fellow Democrats seize a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature. He undergoes treatment for prostate cancer but says early the following year that he has fully recovered.
2013: With the economy recovering and the state’s budget crisis behind him, Brown travels to China, speaks about global warming and enjoys a deluge of favorable reviews in national media outlets. He turns 75 and raises more than $10 million for a likely re-election bid next year.
The third term, in quotes
“I’m ready, I’m raring to go, and don’t expect me to leave too soon.”
– On finishing treatment for prostate cancer
“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.”
– On the construction of a high-speed-rail project in California
“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”
– Introducing his finance department staff to reporters
“I like to be able to go in the refrigerator in the middle of the night.”
– On his preference for sleeping at the homes of friends instead of at hotels when he travels
“It’s not a burp. It’s barely a fart.”
– Responding to a radio ad by Texas Gov. Rick Perry urging California companies to move to Texas
“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|