LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown formally launched his re-election campaign Thursday, stepping into a contest that the former three-time presidential candidate is expected to dominate.
The expected announcement was understated — a written statement posted on his website — in keeping with Brown’s reputation for shoestring-style politicking. The 75-year-old Democrat said he had filed required paperwork to seek the office and was ready to deal with a raft of pressing issues, from a potentially devastating drought to a pension system mired in long-term debt.
“At this stage of my life, I can say without any hesitation that I am prepared and excited to tackle these challenges,” said Brown, already the longest-serving governor in California history. “There is nothing I would rather do.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnist and CBS political analyst Phil Matier told KNX1070’s Megan Goldsby if Brown’s bid for re-election is successful he would make the California record books.
“Jerry Brown isn’t just running for governor, he’s running for the Guinness Book of World Records. If he gets re-elected, he may be the state’s oldest governor. He may be the state’s longest-serving governor,” Matier said.
Brown has been stockpiling campaign cash for months — he has nearly $17 million for the race, far more than any of his little-known Republican rivals. He enters the contest with significant advantages — his party holds a 2.6 million voter edge over Republicans and Democrats control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature.
After winning voter support for a tax increase, Brown has been credited with easing the state’s long-running budget mess, at least for now. Recent statewide polling found most Democrats and independents approve of the job he has been doing, a key measure in a state where GOP registration has dipped below 30 percent.
But California is troubled by a wide range of problems: its freeways are cratered and strangled with traffic, many schools have alarming dropout rates, a withering middle class, illegal immigration. Brown’s signature project, a $68 billion high-speed rail line, has lost public favor and faces an uncertain future.
“Californians can’t afford another four years of Gov. Brown’s failed leadership,” former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, one of Brown’s Republican rivals, said in a statement.
State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, also wants Brown’s job.
Allan Hoffenblum, the L.A.-based publisher of the California Target Book, told KNX1070 Brown’s opponents likely don’t stand a chance in the race, however.
“People don’t perceive Sacramento as dysfunctional as it was, so I think it’s going to be a very, very boring re-election campaign,” he said.
Political science professor John J. Pitney, Jr. also believes it’s Brown’s race to lose.
“The governor is definitely a heavy favorite for the fall. He has a financial advantage, he has the advantage of name identification and the democratic advantage of California,” Pitney told KCAL9’s Dave Bryan.
“It’s hard to see Tim Donnelly winning against Jerry Brown under any circumstances. Neel Kashkari is a long shot, a very long shot. He might, might have an outside chance. But the bottom line is Jerry Brown is a very heavy favorite in this election,” Pitney said.
Donnelly, however, says Brown’s record should have voters second-guessing.
“We’ve still got over 2 million people out of work. Our schools are almost dead last in educational results and we have one out of four Californians who are living in poverty,” he continued.
In a trendsetting state, Brown has nevertheless proven a durable fixture. The son of a former governor, he traces his political career to the 1960s and served his first stint as governor from 1975 to 1983. Along the way he’s been state attorney general and mayor of Oakland. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992. He won his third term as governor in 2010.
“Millions of our families are struggling and too many men and women cannot find work or the living wages they deserve,” Brown said in his statement. “I won’t make everyone happy every time but I will listen and I will seek to find the best and fairest way forward.”