Jerry Brown mingles with the public at 35,000 feet


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Anyone who needed a reminder about how much has changed in terms of gubernatorial style with the election of Jerry Brown just needed to look at Southwest Airlines Flight 896 from Sacramento to Burbank on Thursday morning.

There, in the fourth row, was Brown, sitting amid the regular procession of business travelers.


Not only does Brown fly commercial, but he flies coach, and without an entourage. No staffers or security made the trip south with the governor, who is scheduled to address the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night.

‘We have to divide labor,’ Brown quipped when asked by reporters why no staff was travelling with him.

Brown took his seat with a white briefing binder on his lap -– a binder that remained closed for most of the flight. Brown spent the bulk of hourlong trip talking to Tianne Rios, an employee of the state Department of Corrections who teaches special education classes to incarcerated youth.

“Nice to meet you. I work for you,” Rios said, introducing herself to her seatmate. When he did begin thumbing through his binder, he discussed its contents with Rios.

Brown shook hands with a couple of well-wishers, some of whom snapped shots of the governor with their cellphone cameras.

In an era of political celebrity, Brown’s throwback style is a welcome change for some. Mark Pinkus, a senior vice president for Rhino Records, was also on the flight, and called Brown’s presence “refreshing. I think it’s great that he’s so accessible,’ Pinkus said.

That populist flair could also be an important weapon for Brown as he tries to persuade voters to support billions of dollars in extended taxes. As he begins taking his message to voters around the state, he may be doing it one Southwest flight at a time.

-- Anthony York