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Bruce McFarland: Jerry Brown ignites the Democrats

Posted: April 19, 2010 3:00 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2010 4:55 a.m.
California Attorney General, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Jerry Brown made a big splash this weekend at the state Democratic Party's convention in Los Angeles. Republicans who've chided him for "not getting into the race sooner," will soon be wishing he hadn't gotten into the race at all.

I attended the convention as a delegate, and as a media person to interview Democrats for The convention is a great place for Democrats from all over the state to interact with elected Democrats, candidates, party officials and lots of dedicated Democratic activists. Nearly 2,000 delegates attended the convention, along with hundreds of guests and friends.

This year's convention featured appearances by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and countless state-level luminaries, including the inimitable Brown.

Brown was a force of nature at the convention. He led an entourage of political staff and security personnel, racing through the halls as he made his way from caucus to caucus to main hall and back again. He almost took my arm with him as he reached out to shake my hand but didn't even miss a step getting to his next appointment.

I hadn't heard Brown - the son of a former governor, former seminarian, himself former governor, former Oakland mayor and current California Attorney General - give a campaign speech for a couple of years and I wondered if he had lost any of his fire or any of his quick wit and wisdom. He hasn't.

Brown gave a rousing speech to the gathered masses, humbly lauding his, and the Democratic Party's accomplishments throughout the years. He told the crowd democracy was not about who had the most money and could blanket the state with campaign ads.

Brown's biggest news bite was his challenge to hold three, three-way debates with Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner before the June 8 primary election. He said voters should be able to see them all in action debating one another, and be allowed to make up their own minds. I agree, so all you Republicans out there, tell Whitman and Poizner to debate Brown.

I've read that Poizner has already accepted the challenge, saying "anytime, anywhere," but Whitman's response was something like, "we'll consider it." Come on Meg, don't be afraid of little old Jerry.

Immediately following his speech Saturday, Brown called an impromptu news conference and spent a few minutes with opening remarks, but spent most of his time answering questions. I don't think anyone who watched Brown field the challenging questions with insightful details and consummate passion will doubt his ability to give Whitman and Poizner a run for their money.

The convention was exciting on many levels, not the least of which were the ongoing battles for lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner. Democratic candidates for office have the opportunity to receive the state party's endorsement, even in a contested primary race, but they have to receive a 60 percent vote of the delegates to do so.

Gavin Newsom, who was a late entry into the lieutenant governor's race, seemed to have the momentum going into the convention, gaining countless (although I'm sure they counted) endorsements from public officials and organizations.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, in her first statewide campaign, mounted an army of grassroots supporters to make sure she wasn't steamrolled by the Newsom machine. She was successful in keeping Newsom from receiving the magical 60 percent vote needed for party endorsement. That race should be very interesting to watch, as both candidates have considerable support around the state.

Another race to watch is for insurance commissioner. Because watching out for the people's interests is the natural realm of the Democratic Party, the office of insurance commissioner has traditionally been held by a Democrat. Current Insurance Commissioner
Poizner has probably ensured it will be in Democratic hands again soon.

The Democratic Party's battle for insurance commissioner endorsement came to an end after a vote Saturday, where Assemblyman Dave Jones beat Assemblyman Hector De La Torre to the 60 percent endorsement threshold. Both candidates are talented, committed and successful legislators, and I think either would make a great insurance commissioner.

It's my opinion Jones has been a superior campaigner and his message seems to resonate better with the people. It looks like the Democrats at the convention agreed with me, and I think the people of California will agree with me in June and again in November.

Democrats are back in California. I encourage everyone to get involved in our quest to improve our state.

Bruce McFarland is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" runs Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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