By Tim Redmond
Willie Brown says he broke the story that Our Governor is thinking about running for president. (Yes, of the United States.) Mark Barabak at the LA Times has floated it out, too. My friends at CalBuzz have even picked out his cabinet.
So what’s it all mean? It means that Jerry is talking about running in 2016, and really enjoying the buzz. I also have heard from some very good sources that the Guv seriously thinks he could make a fourth run for the White House. And I know he’s wanted the job for much of his adult life, and believes he’d be good at it.
Unlike Ronald Reagan, he’s a mentally healthy 75-year-old with plenty of energy.
So it’s more than idle rumor. But is it for real? I don’t see how.
I like Jerry Brown. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him; he’s smart, funny, and sometimes incredibly insightful. He’s got world-class political instincts. But here’s the problem:
Presidential primaries, particularly the early ones, are won and lost on the ground. You need lots and lots of people willing to help organize their neighbors, go to caucuses, get the vote out … and right now, Hillary Clinton has an army ready to go. Jerry’s got nobody.
I know there are people in California labor who like Jerry a lot, but I don’t see him generating the excitement that, say, Barack Obama did, or Bill Clinton did, or Elizabeth Warren would. Jerry’s “paddle a little on the left and a little on the right” might make sense when you’re trying to beat Meg Whitman and get elected governor of California, but it ain’t gonna get the Democratic troops (who break left) out in critical primaries. He was once a leading environmentalist, but again: Not an issue that he can resurrect out of nowhere.
Honest government? That gets my vote, and it’s something he has a long, credible record on. But it’s not enough to derail Team Hillary.
Then there’s the Jerry Factor. His last race, in 1992, was way before the Internet, way before any slip-up turned into a media hellstorm. And Jerry tends to wander. He says things that might make sense in Jesuit Intellectual Deep Thinker way but that come off as really, really flaky. He once put Bill Clinton (that was Democratic Presidential Nominee Bill Clinton ) on hold on his cell phone for like ten minutes then let the call drop. And remember in the campaign against Whitman when he started talking about he was more qualified because he had his own astronaut?
He’s got all the experience in the world, but I don’t see how he gets from here to there.
(Now, if the temperature begins to drop below zero in Hades and Hillary Clinton decides not to run? Then anything’s possible. Even Brown vs. Joe Biden. And wouldn’t those be fun debates to cover.)
Look for Sup. David Campos to introduce legislation that will substantially increase the statutory relocation payment for Ellis Act evictions – and if the city attorney is willing to sign off, perhaps a bill that would tie San Francisco’s relocation to the 1971 federal standard. The federal law guarantees people evicted through no fault of their own by federal projects the difference between the rent they’re paying and market rent in the same area, for four years.
That would be the first piece of tenant legislation in the Ed Lee era with real teeth – and a guaranteed real, drag-out battle. The landlords didn’t even bother to fight the last Campos bill, which allows tenants to take harassment cases to the Rent Board, and it passed 11-0. (Nobody in local politics wants to seem anti-tenant today.) But a measure that would render most speculative Ellis Act evictions and TIC conversions financially impossible, and would essentially end the practice, would force the landlord lobby to bring in the heavy artillery. And I can bet that Lee’s allies in the tech-mogul world would be on the side of the landlords. Their higher-paid employees are, after all, the beneficiaries of a law that allows massive displacement of existing tenants – and allows tech workers to move into a city that otherwise might not have room for them right now.
Could the more centrist members of the board – Jane Kim, David Chiu, London Breed, Malia Cohen – vote against that measure? Now, with every tenant in town (still the majority of voters) worried about waking up to an eviction notice tomorrow? Could they stand up to the intense pressure on the other side? Where would the mayor come down on a decision where there is no consensus, no way to make a win-win – just an epic class-struggle battle where one side loses?
If it happens, it will be the most important political story of early 2014.