POLITICS
11/04/2014 11:03 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Jerry Brown Coasts To Re-Election With Nonexistent Campaign

California voters re-elected Jerry Brown for governor Tuesday, marking the first time in the state's history that a gubernatorial candidate won a fourth term.

Brown, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Neel Kashkari, according to the AP. In a victory speech outside the Governor's mansion in Sacramento, Brown said he considered his historic fourth term to be a "gift."

"Being where I am tonight is extremely bold. I didn't get here by being pusillanimous," he added. (The Twittersphere instantly responded with multiple #SATword tweets.)

The quirky 76-year-old sailed to victory Tuesday despite running a virtually nonexistent campaign. While Kashkari poured millions into TV spots and other advertisements, Brown spent more money promoting two California ballot measures than he did on himself. He agreed to appear in only one debate, slated to run at the same time as the U.S. Open and the NFL season opener. And at the end of October, while Kashkari was crisscrossing the state to rally support, Brown took a break from the campaign trail to attend his class reunion across the country at Yale University.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official who helped design and implement the 2008 bank bailouts, trailed Brown by as many as 20 points in the final weeks of the race. Over the course of his campaign, Kashkari resorted to a number of bizarre, attention-grabbing stunts, including posing as a homeless person and asking constituents to smash toy cars in exchange for gas money.

But both Kashkari's eyebrow-raising tactics and Brown's legacy failed to make a lasting impact. A survey released last week found that an astonishing 42 percent of likely California voters didn't know Brown was seeking re-election, and one in five had never heard of Kashkari.

Brown, whose father Pat once served as California's governor as well, has enjoyed a prolific career in state politics. He was California's Secretary of State before being elected governor in 1974 and re-elected in 1978. He took a hiatus from public life after unsuccessfully running for U.S. Senate in 1982 and for president in 1992, but reemerged as mayor of Oakland in 1999. Following his mayoral stint, Brown spent four years as California's Attorney General. He defeated Republican opponent Meg Whitman, now the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, to win a third term as governor in 2010.

Although Brown was heralded (and ridiculed) for his far-left ideals during his first two terms in the 1970s and 80s, the former "Governor Moonbeam" has faced criticism from progressives for adopting a markedly more conservative stance on a number of issues his third time around.

He managed to pull California out of a deep deficit, but not without major cuts to education and a variety of social services. He made gestures toward reforming the state's ballooning prison system, but his plan to transfer incarcerated individuals to local jails has only caused more overflow and cost billions of extra dollars. He's allowed fracking to continue despite his self-proclaimed "crusade to protect our climate."

Brown has also vetoed bills that would have improved the treatment of minority voters, protected domestic workers, reined in wrongful convictions and required more campaign finance transparency.

And he remains vehemently opposed to marijuana legalization, even though California residents overwhelming support for the issue. "If there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive," he said on Meet the Press earlier this year. "I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

During term four, Brown will likely attempt to tackle California's fledgling water system in an effort to address the state's severe drought and continue to fight on behalf of the state's high speed rail project, which he's been a vocal proponent of since its conception.

Do his political ambitions extend beyond this final stretch in Sacramento? He wouldn't be Jerry Brown if he wasn't at least mulling future options.

"I wouldn't mind being mayor of Oakland," Brown said when asked by the Los Angeles Times if he planned to run for president in 2016. "But I don't know, when I'm 80 and a half, whether I'll have the same appetite."

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