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Jerry Brown: Home Consistent With His Frugality Message

BROOKE DONALD   06/29/10 11:49 PM ET   AP

Jerry Brown House California Governor Race

MONTEREY, Calif. — Jerry Brown defended his ownership of a $1.8 million, five-story home with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay, saying Tuesday it does not undermine his gubernatorial campaign's message of frugality.

Instead, he says the house is consistent with his philosophy.

"Were we getting a no-down payment loan and buying a house that you can't afford, that would be a reflection on how the candidate spends money," he said Tuesday in response to a reporter's question.

"But when a couple buy their dream house with their life savings, I think that's the American dream and I'm very proud that I can do that," Brown said.

Last week, The Associated Press reported the Democratic candidate rarely mentions the home in the Oakland Hills while he is on the campaign trail touting a message of thriftiness.

Instead, he often reminds voters of the apartment he rented during his first tour in the executive office, the downtown loft he lived in as Oakland mayor and his otherwise low-budget lifestyle, which includes traveling on Southwest Airlines and taking advantage of senior citizen discounts.

The message is intended to create a contrast between Brown and his Republican rival, billionaire former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman.

Brown, 72, seeks to portray himself as fiscally responsible and wants voters to believe he can better understand their day-to-day struggles.

On Tuesday, he mentioned the house during a speech to a gathering of district attorneys and investigators, referencing the AP story and saying it should not be a shock that he has a nice home.

He later told reporters that he has been saving his whole life and can now afford such a property. He also noted he's married now, to former Gap executive Anne Gust.

"My wife found the house and it was a very beautiful house, and I think in the Bay Area it's relatively modest," he said.

His campaign spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said Brown has often referenced his move from downtown Oakland to the more affluent Oakland Hills and has not shied away from discussing the house when asked about it.

The three-bedroom home is Zen-inspired, with a spiral staircase, bamboo floors and roll-up family room windows with views of the bay. It features a sauna, wine cellar and dumbwaiter service to every floor.

Brown said the real question is how he spends taxpayers' money, adding he has a proven record of not being wasteful.

"So we're very frugal with the people's money, with our campaign contributors' money," he said. "And that's the way I would be were I the governor."

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Filed by Billy Silverman  |