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Jerry Brown Files to Enter Attorney General’s Race

Times Staff Writer

Former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, mayor of Oakland and an opponent of the death penalty, now wants to be state attorney general.

“I’d bring creativity and innovation to that office. I have a lot to give,” Brown, 66, said Monday in an interview from London, where he stopped en route to a conference in Croatia. Brown last week quietly filed his required statement of intention to run for attorney general in 2006. The filing, a prerequisite to raising campaign funds, was an unusually stealthy move for a career politician who has been California’s secretary of state, governor, a three-time presidential contender, a U.S. Senate candidate and mayor of Oakland.

Brown served as governor from 1975 to 1983. His father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, served two terms as state attorney general from 1951 to 1958, followed by two terms as governor from 1959 to 1967.

At least four other candidates also have filed to run for attorney general’s office, now held by Democrat Bill Lockyer, who will leave due to term limits. Brown’s chief primary election opponent is likely to be Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana).

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Brown, half-jokingly using a slogan he promoted in his 1974 campaign for governor, said he would create a “new spirit” of bipartisanship and independence in the office of the state’s chief prosecutor. He insisted he would not permit his lifelong opposition to capital punishment to deter him from putting eligible felons to death.

“I would prefer a society where we don’t attempt use of the death penalty as punishment,” Brown said. But, he said, “I would vigorously uphold that law and every other law that the attorney general is called on to protect and enforce.”

He recently criticized Dist. Atty. Kamala Harris of San Francisco, also an opponent of capital punishment, for her controversial decision not to seek the execution of the alleged killer of young police officer Isaac Espinoza.

“It is not right to categorically say that ‘I am not going to follow the law,’ ” he said Monday.

But Brown’s opposition to capital punishment is a substantial handicap, said Dan Schnur, a Republican political analyst who is not supporting a candidate in the attorney general’s race. He said that for Californians, the death penalty “is still a threshold issue, especially if you are the state’s chief law enforcement officer.”

As governor in 1977, Brown vetoed the Legislature’s bill to reinstate the death penalty. Lawmakers overrode the veto. In the same year, he appointed another foe of capital punishment, Rose Elizabeth Bird, as chief justice of California. Labeled soft on murderers, she was ousted by voters in 1986.

But Brown said as mayor of one of California’s most violent cities, he has an up-close view of crime.

“Given my visibility and experience, I could be a very effective defender of the rule of law,” Brown said.Brown, once a consummate fundraiser who some years back embraced caps on campaign contributions, also agreed to voluntarily limit his political donations in the 2006 campaign to amounts allowed by voter-approved Proposition 34. However, he noted that the law “allows you to take a second look at this decision.”

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The law restricts individual campaign contributions to a statewide candidate to $5,300 per election.

State records show that Dunn has rejected voluntary limits while other candidates have not yet indicated their positions. They are Republicans Gary Mendoza, unsuccessful candidate for insurance commissioner in 2002; Rod Pacheco, retired assemblyman from Riverside; and state Sen. Charles Poochigian of Fresno, who also has said he intends to run for lieutenant governor.


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