An easy favorite, Gov. Brown is slow to aid fellow Democrats
Facing an uphill climb to regain a two-house supermajority in November, legislative leaders say that they have asked Gov. Jerry Brown to stump for fellow Democrats in a half-dozen competitive districts.
It’s the sort of thing governors typically do as their party’s state leader. And a two-thirds Democratic majority would help Brown pursue his agenda, because no Republican support would be needed for any of his proposals.
But Brown, who is expected to win his own race handily and has not mounted a time-consuming campaign of his own, has not committed to any appearances.
The governor “will be as helpful as his busy schedule allows,” said Dan Newman, his campaign spokesman.
Incoming Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), heading the election effort for Democrats in the upper house, said he is “actively pursuing the governor to make appearances.”
“He is a very popular governor, and he’s the top Democrat in the state,” the senator said.
One legislative source who is privy to the discussions but not authorized to speak publicly said lawmakers are “in negotiations” with Brown’s representatives over what role the governor might play.
Even with the governor’s help, Democrats say, it could be tough to secure a supermajority in both houses. Voter turnout typically falls when there is no presidential contest, and there is no galvanizing statewide race or ballot measure this year to spur people to the polls.
In the June primary, a record low 25.2% of state voters cast ballots, and Democrats blamed that low turnout for Republican wins in three Senate districts where Democrats lead in registration. Historically, higher percentages of Republicans typically vote in low-turnout elections, so their influence could be increased.
“This electoral cycle is going to be the most challenging in more than a decade, so we absolutely have our work cut out for us,” De León said.
Indeed, Republicans are intent on blocking a supermajority, telling voters in mail and television ads that it would allow the Democrats free rein on tax matters. They say that could mean a repeal of Proposition 13, something Democrats have not proposed.
GOP leaders are also reminding voters that multiple Democratic state senators have been charged with crimes.
“Senate Democrats lost their two-thirds majority this year because of serious ethical lapses which allowed Republicans to step in and craft good policy for all Californians, including a water bond, a rainy day fund, and job creation legislation,” Senate Republican leader Robert Huff of Diamond Bar said in an email.
Democrats in the Assembly have pitched Brown on using some of his bill signings to make appearances in competitive districts where there is a confluence of politics and policy.
One is in Orange County, where Democratic Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva is facing a challenge from Republican Young Kim, a former congressional aide.
One proposal by Assembly officials would have the governor travel to Orange County to sign a Quirk-Silva bill creating the county’s first veterans’ cemetery. “We’re on the list as an ask,” said Quirk-Silva, who is from Fullerton.
Brown does not have any signing ceremonies scheduled, spokesman Evan Westrup said. His deadline for acting on this year’s bills is midnight Tuesday.
Some Republicans say that appearances by Brown would not be much help in regions where his policies have angered voters. In parts of the San Joaquin Valley, for example, the governor could face a chilly response from voters who are opposed to his high-speed rail project.
De León said he was helped in the June primary by Brown’s appearance in a mail ad endorsing the senator’s reelection and he would like the same benefit for others. Brown could make public appearances with candidates, host fundraisers and agree to appear in mail and television ads touting legislative candidates, for example.
The state Democratic Party is already featuring the governor in campaign mail it is sending to voters in several competitive districts, party spokesman Tenoch Flores said.
The mail notes that the party is endorsing Brown as well as the legislators in those districts, including Quirk-Silva.