California Governor Jerry Brown will run for re-election this year to extend his stint as the longest-serving governor of the most populous U.S. state.
“If you had asked me 40 years ago -- when I first ran for governor -- what I would be doing in 2014, I could never have guessed,” Brown, 75, said in a statement on his website today. “I love this state and will do my utmost to enable California to keep faith with its past and pave the way for a future as bold as our forebears would expect.”
Brown, the longest-serving California governor by virtue of his two previous terms from 1975 to 1983, has enjoyed a record-high approval after creating the biggest budget surplus in more than a decade. He’s dealing with issues including prison overcrowding and a drought that threatens farmers after 2013 turned into the driest year on record for California.
“There is much more to do,” Brown said on his website. “The current budget surplus, if it is to endure, requires vigilance and a resolute will. At this stage of my life, I can say -- without any hesitation -- that I am prepared and excited to tackle these challenges.”
A poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, released Jan. 29, showed that 60 percent of likely voters approve of the job Brown is doing, up from 49 percent in December.
“He’s going to offer a contrast between the state of the budget today versus the state of the budget he inherited,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “I expect him to emphasize that we don’t have regular budget crises any more, and he’ll attribute that to his leadership.”
Brown’s challengers include Republican Neel Kashkari. The 40-year-old former federal official, who managed the $700 billion rescue of the U.S. banking system in 2008, announced his bid on Jan. 21. Kashkari was head of global equities at Pacific Investment Management Co. before leaving to run for governor.
“JerryBrownGov welcome to the race,” Kashkari posted on Twitter. “Even tho u don’t want to acknowledge them, we r going to give the 24% living in poverty a voice.”
Brown’s approval ratings in California, the world’s 10th-largest economy, have enabled him to collect money from about a third of the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial index. He has amassed $17 million from donors including Exxon Mobil Corp., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and even porn mogul Larry Flynt for a re-election campaign, according to campaign finance records. The Democrat has nine months for additional fundraising before the Nov. 4 election.
Born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938, Brown has a long history in the state. His father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, served as governor from 1959 to 1967.
After graduating from St. Ignatius High School in 1955, Jerry Brown completed freshman year at the University of Santa Clara before entering Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary, in 1956, according to his biography. In 1960, he left the Society of Jesus and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley.
During his first stint as governor, Brown became a nationally known figure for dating singer Linda Ronstadt, driving a 1974 Plymouth Satellite sedan rather than being chauffeured in a limousine, and being labeled “Governor Moonbeam” for promoting policies such as a state-sponsored space program. Brown ran unsuccessfully for president in 1976, 1980 and 1992.
Elected to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, Brown also has served as California’s attorney general and secretary of state, as well as mayor of Oakland. His sister, Kathleen Brown, a former state treasurer, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1994.
“If the election were held tomorrow, Jerry Brown would win,” Pitney said. “He’s a heavy favorite to win in the fall, but we’ll have to see what he does about the drought. The drought has both an immediate impact and could have a ripple effect on the economy, which could cause him some difficulties.”