State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown dropped the fiction that he was seeking reelection and filed papers Tuesday to explore a run for governor, a job that he first won in 1974 and has for months been fighting hard, if quietly, to recapture.
Brown’s move was born of necessity: Contributions to candidates for attorney general are capped at $6,500 per election for individual donors, but gubernatorial contestants can accept up to $25,900.
“If he chooses to run, it will make him more competitive against a deep-pocketed Republican opponent,” said Steven Glazer, a senior advisor to Brown, a Democrat. Two of the three major Republicans in the 2010 race are Silicon Valley moguls who are using personal fortunes for the campaign.
By all appearances, the former Oakland mayor and three-time presidential candidate chose long ago to run for governor again. But by keeping it unofficial, Brown has minimized his clash with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the lone major Democrat in the June primary.
“This coy act that he’s been going through for months has been getting a little stale,” said Newsom strategist Garry South. “He’s basically used it to avoid answering questions, to avoid taking positions.”
Brown, who often brushes aside questions on the governor’s race by saying that he is focused on his current job, will probably wait until next year to decide whether to run, according to Glazer.
“He’s thinking very hard about it,” Glazer said.
Brown, who was governor from 1975 to 1983, has far outpaced Newsom in fundraising so far. Brown reported $7.4 million on hand at the end of June, well above the $1.2 million banked by Newsom.
Once a fierce critic of big campaign contributions from donors with a stake in public business, Brown now accepts the maximum allowed by law from developers, casino operators, lawyers, investment bankers, unions, energy companies, the timber industry and alcoholic-beverage sellers.
Brown, 71, has also saved money by running a lean campaign, with such top advisors as strategist Joe Trippi, pollster Richard Maullin and Glazer offering early counsel without pay. Also playing a key role in the campaign is Brown’s wife, Anne Gust, a lawyer.
Brown’s move to start collecting money under the higher donation caps came as Newsom was preparing a fundraiser Monday in the Los Angeles area with former President Clinton.
In Davis on Tuesday, Meg Whitman, a top Republican candidate for governor, offered an explanation for her failure to register to vote until she was 46. Since then she has voted sporadically.
“I was focused on raising a family, on my husband’s career, and we moved many, many times,” she told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
“It is no excuse. My voting record, my registration record, is unacceptable,” she said.
Her voting record was the subject of a Sacramento Bee investigation last week.
Whitman, 53, was chief executive of EBay, the Internet auction giant, for 10 years. State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, another Republican candidate, has called on Whitman to bow out of the race, saying that her failure to vote for most of her adult life would hurt her in a general election.
Whitman has declined to do so.