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Judge rejects hearing on Brown’s eligibility

Times Staff Writer

A judge Tuesday rejected a request by Republican activists for a preelection hearing on their bid to bar Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown from becoming attorney general if the Democrat wins Nov. 7.

Brown supporters declared victory and predicted that the lawsuit, which they called a “political stunt,” would evaporate after his election day showdown with state Sen. Chuck Poochigian (R-Fresno).

“Chuck Poochigian thought he was buying a swift boat,” said Ace Smith, Brown’s campaign strategist, citing the orchestrated criticism -- during the 2004 presidential campaign -- of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry’s Vietnam War record. “Instead he ended up with a leaky dinghy, which is now sunk.”

Republican officials say they will continue to press for a hearing after the election to get a fair airing of their challenge to Brown’s qualifications to hold office.

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“We’re on track,” said Mark Pruner, Yolo County Republican Party chairman and one of five GOP officials who filed the lawsuit. “This will come up again, no matter what.”

The activists focused their challenge on Brown’s eligibility under a state law requiring that an attorney general be “admitted to practice” for five years immediately preceding election.

Brown passed the bar and was admitted to practice law in California in 1965, but for several years chose to pay a lower membership fee available to attorneys on inactive status, most recently because of his mayoral duties.

The former two-term governor reestablished his active status in 2003, but the GOP activists argued that during the years he was inactive he was not allowed to practice and thus is ineligible to be attorney general.

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They sought to bar the counting of votes for Brown in five California counties, including Los Angeles. Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang made her ruling at a closed hearing.

Robin Johansen, Brown’s attorney, called the lawsuit “a desperate attempt to stop the counting of votes for the front-runner in this race.” The timing “is even worse -- a political stunt designed to garner publicity and distract voters two weeks before the election.”

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eric.bailey@latimes.com

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