LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a year when California Democrats are worried about motivating their voters, Gov. Jerry Brown heard another unwelcome message Saturday: some environmentalists, a core Democratic constituency, are bristling over his administration's policies on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Appearing at a Democratic convention in Los Angeles, in his first major campaign speech since formally declaring his candidacy last month, Brown found himself forced to speak over a noisy group of sign-waving protesters who want him to ban fracking in the state.
"Just listen a moment," Brown said impatiently at one point, as the protesters shouted "No fracking" and waved signs just steps from the podium that said "Another Democrat against fracking."
The protesters provided an unscripted distraction in what was otherwise expected to be a unified show of support for the 75-year-old governor, who appears headed for an unprecedented fourth term in the heavily Democratic state.
In his remarks, Brown made the case that California had emerged from the ravages of the recession and was now leading the nation on issues like immigration reform and environmental protection, while Washington remains hopelessly gridlocked.
"California is working," he said. "California is back."
Brown is expected to easily secure enough votes in the June primary to move on to the general election. In November, he is expected to face one of two little-known Republicans, former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari of Laguna Beach or state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly from the San Bernardino Mountains community of Twin Peaks.
In a year that's expected to be favorable for national Republicans, state Democratic leaders have been fretting about the motivation of their voters.
Most political handicappers expect Democrats to retain their grip on the governorship and other statewide offices this year, in part because of California's Democratic tilt. GOP registration has dwindled to 28.7 percent.
But sketchy turnout could affect two dozen or more competitive congressional and state legislative contests.