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Amidst the Encomiums for His Record-Setting Tenure, It Can Now Be Revealed: Jerry Brown's Only Fatal Vulnerability for Re-Election

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On Saturday, Governor Jerry Brown became California's longest serving governor. Yet lost amidst all the encomiums for his record-setting tenure to date, something very important is only now being revealed, right here. Brown has only one fatal vulnerability for re-election to an unprecedented fourth term in California. And he has done nothing about it.

That is the threat of kaiju attacks on coastal cities. In the video scenario just below, you see a kaiju attacking and destroying Brown's hometown of San Francisco, something which would certainly be a negative for his re-election effort.

This kaiju attack scenario, resulting in the destruction of Governor Jerry Brown's hometown of San Francisco, made available by Pacific Rim producers.

Yet Brown refuses to do anything to prepare for such an eventuality, despite the prevalence of the kaiju -- which translates as monster or strange giant creature -- in Japanese culture. This is odd, since Brown himself spent the better part of a year living in Japan, following his first two terms as governor, pursuing his mastery of Zen Buddhism. There is no koan to prevent the kaiju, Governor.

While Brown tempts fate in this way, his opponents seek ways to prevail without relying on attacks by monsters from the deeps.

Amidst the plaudits for his record and his new/renewed governorship -- though troubles remain, Brown has ended the state's chronic budget crisis and is racking up a steady list of accomplishments -- California Republicans met over the weekend past in convention to, among other things, discuss what they will try to do next year when Brown runs for re-election, something he has not yet announced.

Will Brown get new and active opponents for the governorship?

Maybe somewhat more active.

The good news for the reeling California Republican Party under latest chairman Jim Brulte is that it paid off its debt going into last weekend's state convention in Anaheim. But on the other hand, the party's keynote speaker was far right Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The delegates' decision to pay more attention to Perry's red meat refutation of then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's move-toward-the-center speech at the 2007 convention was one of the most telling moments in contemporary California history. Had they listened to Schwarzenegger, who had won a landslide re-election as governor the previous November, Republicans would have been more competitive in California. So Perry is not exactly a step forward into political relevance in the Golden State.

For the next Republican governors' race after Schwarzenegger and Perry's fateful back-to-back 2007 appearances, in 2010, saw two candidates who are more naturally moderate corporate conservatives -- billionaire Meg Whitman and then Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a super-rich Silicon Valley guy -- engage in a heated race to the right, especially on illegal immigration. It helped make Whitman easy prey for Brown in the general election, despite her all-time national record in spending by a non-presidential campaign.

Former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, whose campaign imploded a month or so ago, leaving famed former John McCain strategist John Weaver and others on the beach, has a new team. It includes former California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring as a senior advisor and Newt Gingrich's former press secretary Rick Tyler as chief spokesman.

Maldonado tried to reboot his reeling campaign at this weekend's California Republican Party convention in Anaheim.

Gone was his hard-edged attack on Brown's realignment strategy which sends low-level offenders from state prison to local jails. Maldonado very showily announced an initiative to reverse the plan this past spring. But it backfired, as I wrote at the time, and the initiative went nowhere.

After his campaign imploded sometime in the last month or two, Maldonado has a new crew and a new more moderate message -- pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-immigration reforms.

Which he reportedly soft-pedaled in talking to conservative convention delegates.

Far right Assemblyman Tim Donnelly was also around, talking on a bullhorn about how Brown must not support more gun controls or he will be recalled.

Touted super-rich candidate Neel Kashkari, best known for helping run the Wall Street bailout initiated by the Bush/Cheney Administration, neither addressed the convention, gave talks to groups about a gubernatorial bid, nor had any organized presence that anyone has told me about. He watched the proceedings and walked around talking to people.

Which is always the approach I've taken at those conventions. Perfect for a columnist. Not so perfect for a candidate, especially one virtually no one has ever heard of.

You already know my bottom line. This is the latest any Republican campaign for governor has gone with so little action in my memory. For the moment, and the moment is getting ever later, Brown will be technically opposed but is effectively unopposed.

Meanwhile, Brown, working as always with First Lady/Special Counsel Anne Gust Brown and his energetic staff, has been busy dealing with legislation. He has just signed several bills urged by advocates of Latino immigrant rights.

On Thursday he signed perhaps the most important, historic legislation granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants -- documents marked so as to make it clear that the holder may not be in the country legally, thus eliminating security concerns -- at events in Los Angeles and Fresno.

Brown joined immigrant rights advocates, community leaders, law enforcement official and local lawmakers at the signing of AB 60, which as he notes "will enable millions more Californians to legally drive on the state's roadways."

Brown, who will work his way through all of the legislature's bill output for the year by the end of this week, also signed a half-dozen bills to promote electric vehicles. This complements his signing of legislation to continue motor vehicle fees to fight emissions, among other things funding a network of 100 hydrogen fueling stations envisioned by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Brown has established a target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025.

He also signed a domestic workers bill of rights, which in any event sunsets in three years.

Brown signed a big minimum wage increase into law in late September at events in Oakland and Los Angeles.

The bill, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), increases the minimum wage for $8 an hour to $10 an hour in two moves, reaching the latter figure by Jan. 1, 2016.

He also signed legislation pushed by Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, and other celebs to make it illegal for paparazzi to take pix and shoot video of the kids of celebrities, who frequently feel assaulted by the very intrusive attention.

And he signed the fracking monitoring bill by state Senator Fran Pavley, legislative author of the state's landmark climate change program. This was to the decided displeasure of a number of environmentalists who want a moratorium on the practice, which uses high-power underground injection to get at what look to be vast storehouses of domestic oil and gas, and feel the bill doesn't go far enough in regulation.

That's what Brown has done lately.

Even more lately, on Saturday evening surpassed Earl Warren as the longest serving governor in the history of California. Warren left office to become chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Following his pattern, Brown held no public celebration and issued no public comment.

Naturally, the articles about this record and Brown's renewed governorship said many of the things I've been saying about Brown for the past few years, so I don't feel it necessary to once again ring the gong of his inimitable characteristics and accomplishments.

One area in which much commentary does seem off to me however concerns the question of "legacy." Which is to say that, according to an amateur psychological analysis, Jerry Brown is engaged in some big infrastructure programs -- notably in high-speed rail and water conveyance -- in order to match his father Pat Brown's reputation as the builder of modern California.

Knowing the current governor, and having known the late governor, I just don't think there's much to that.

There were strains in the relationship between the two men, but I can tell you that it seemed pretty worked out to me by the early 1990s, if not sooner, which is over 20 years ago.

I remember the summer of 1992, when my first wife and I joined Pat and Bernice Brown and Kathleen Brown and Van Gordon Sauter on vacation in Sun Valley. Kathleen held a dinner party for glamorous Washington power broker Pamela Harriman, who in a few months would be appointed US ambassador to France by the new President Bill Clinton.

The ever self-possessed Harriman had a bone to pick with Jerry Brown's tough runner-up campaign for the Democratic nomination against Clinton, and sharply criticized Jerry during the course of the dinner party. As I cleared my throat to reply, having not quite found the words to refute what she was saying without ending the dinner party, I realized that I needn't have bothered.

Pat Brown jumped in with both feet defending his son and his campaign, putting a swift end to Harriman's grousing. The legendary former governor made it very clear not only then but in other more private settings that he was very proud of his son, even though he didn't always agree or understand him.

Around this period, for his part, Jerry Brown began talking of his father and himself in terms of "the family business," speaking with insight and empathy about the positive aspects of elements of what his father did that he had not found so amenable when he was younger.

As to the specific legacy elements in question, Jerry Brown has been for them for decades, including the period in which many believe that he and his father were, well, not especially in synch.

Not only that, high-speed rail in California has special significance as the only such program in the country backed by the Obama Administration to survive the furious assaults on it from the far right and the lobby of the old energy economy.

Even more to the point, it's not a program unique to Brown.

Former Governor Gray Davis got the ball rolling with legislation enacted for a high-speed rail bond. When Arnold Schwarzenegger came into office, knowing how prevalent high-speed rail is in Europe and Asia and thinking its absence here to be ridiculous, he made a point of championing the program, and continued to do so through his entire administration.

So, while Jerry Brown backed high-speed rail in the '70s and '80s as part of his landmark shift in energy emphasis to renewable power, it's not an idea unique to him, even in the California governorship.

So too with the water conveyance program through the Sacramento River Delta. Brown proposed something similar in the early 1980s, got it enacted by the legislature, but lost a statewide vote. He did this when some of the people now saying he's obsessed with matching his father's legacy were convinced he and his dad were on the outs.

Brown, of course, already has a major infrastructure legacy from his first go-round as governor, what I call part of the new infrastructure for the new economy -- not so much of bricks and mortar but of design -- in the form of California's pioneering programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Again, these are ideas that -- while unique to him back in the '70s, at least as major politicians went -- are not so unique today. Davis revived Brown's soft energy path during his governorship.

Schwarzenegger then ramped the path up into a super-highway.

And Brown continues with a very expanded version of what he began going on 40 years ago, an approach which has made California a model in the field.

Brown, as it turns out, is a lot more interested in vision than in legacy. He just needs to remember one thing: Destroy all kaiju.

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.

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