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Old 01-26-2010, 2:03 PM
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Default AP article on Jerry Brown: "Gun ownership is a fundamental right."

AP article on AG Jerry Brown. Underlining supplied by me...,4713229.story


Brown's tenure as attorney general seen as safe, steady as he prepared for run for governor

PAUL ELIAS Associated Press Writer
2:57 AM CST, January 26, 2010

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Jerry Brown has spent his three years as California's attorney general as he has his five decades in politics: being a predictably unpredictable office holder and perennial candidate.

As California's top prosecutor, the lifelong Democrat with distinguished political bloodlines has won wide support from district attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs.

But he has disappointed many death penalty foes, consumer advocates and gun control proponents who hoped he would support their causes.

Now that the 71-year-old lawyer is expected to run for governor this year, his performance as the state's chief law enforcement officer is being scrutinized for harbingers of how he would run California.

Although he has not formally announced his candidacy, Brown's tremendous name recognition has already served him well. He has collected $12 million in campaign funds and polls consistently show him to be such a favorite that potential Democratic gubernatorial rivals such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom bowed out of the fight.

The son of popular two-term governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, he began his political career as a community college trustee in the 1960s. He rocketed to national prominence when he won the governorship in 1974 and ran three times for president. Before being elected attorney general, he served for eight years as Oakland's mayor.

Along the way, the Yale law school graduate and former Jesuit seminarian established a political identity based partly on his eclectic personal style.

As governor, he dated singer Linda Ronstadt, lived in a $250-a-month apartment rather than the newly built governor's mansion, and earned the nickname Governor Moonbeam for his proposals. As mayor, he burnished his crime fighter credentials, living in a gritty neighborhood in downtown Oakland and waging war against Oakland's violent street gangs.

When Brown took office as attorney general, he promised to enforce all state laws regardless of personal opinions including his opposition to the death penalty.

When two gay couples sued last year to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Brown declined to defend the law, saying he thought marriage a "fundamental right" regardless of sexual orientation.

Commentators said Brown's quiet exit from the current litigation over Proposition 8 is politically savvy and underscores the steady and safe course he has charted as attorney general.

Critics on the right and left grumble that Brown has done little more than serve as a caretaker as attorney general, other than position himself to run for governor. The left hoped and the right feared Brown would raise the prestige and power of the office much as Eliot Spitzer did in New York when he took on nontraditional causes such as Wall Street corruption.

Brown has angered gun control proponents, especially when he urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Chicago's handgun ban.

"I have respect for the Second Amendment," said Brown, who owns three guns and targets shoots occasionally on his ranch east of Chico, Calif. "Gun ownership is a fundamental right."

Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, a Democrat, said he had expected Brown to use the office more aggressively and creatively.

"I think that his mind probably has been on running for governor and has been for some time," said Van de Kamp, who launched his own gubernatorial campaign in 1990 at the end of his eight-year term as attorney general. "That's very time consuming and distracting."

Such criticisms agitate Brown.

"Some people on the outside say government should do everything," Brown said during a Christmas Eve interview in his downtown Oakland office . "Well that is an endless expansion of government and I don't believe in that. You have limits. You have a limited number of people and hours in the day. So I set priorities."

Brown came into office with four major goals: combat global warming and street gangs, stand up for the workers in the "underground economy" and bolster the state Department of Justice's law enforcement arm.

By most accounts, he has followed through on his campaign pledges, often with his dog Dharma sleeping at his feet and his wife and unpaid chief adviser, former Gap Inc. general counsel Ann Gust Brown, in the office next door. Brown also takes credit for slashing $100 million from the attorney general's annual budget, which was $750 million last year.

Using lawsuits and legal threats, he strong-armed more than a dozen cities and counties to consider global warming when considering development projects. He has filed several lawsuits against car washes, construction companies and others accused of shortchanging workers out of overtime and earned wages.

Brown also jumped into the mortgage meltdown crisis, filing a high-profile lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp. in July 2008, which he touted as a major component of his office's consumer protection efforts.

"On the stuff that he was focused on, he did a very aggressive and good job," said Joe Mathews, a scholar at the New America Foundation, a non-profit think tank. "But he doesn't appear to have been a big risk taker."

Brown has won key support of influential law enforcement authorities, partly by defending against every death penalty appeal filed.
Now, the state's oldest first-term attorney general wants to go back to Sacramento to fix the nation's most populous state.

"I've seen the state from the point of view as governor and now I have seen the state from the point of view as a lawyer to the governor. I know a lot about how it works."

But Brown conceded that the state's financial woes and the seemingly endless political snarls of state government would make the job challenging.

"I think," he said, "to succeed will be extraordinarily difficult."

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Bill Wiese
San Jose, CA

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Last edited by bwiese; 01-26-2010 at 2:05 PM..
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