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Brown sells himself as insider and outsider in one

March 2, 2010 |  1:08 pm

Jerry Brown, in declaring himself a candidate for governor Tuesday morning, said the antidote to California's problems is "someone with an insider's knowledge but an outsider's mind."

That is the line he will apparently seek to walk to counter criticism, which began from Republicans immediately, that he is a politician of the past. It is one that, combined with almost a lifetime of serving in office and his centrist positions on issues such as law enforcement, draws on all the eclectic images of Brown's public history – including his relationship with Linda Ronstadt, his Buddhist period in the 1980s and his famously candid tongue.

The video he posted on his campaign website Tuesday morning contained some of Brown's classic blunt phrasing. The state budget, he said, "is always late, it's always in the red, and it's always wrong." He promised: "I'll tell you the truth. No more smoke and mirrors on the budget. No more puffy slogans and platitudes." 

And in a dig at the big-spending campaign of former EBay chief Meg Whitman, he declared, "What we need is not a scripted plan cooked up by consultants." (His note that he has "lived in California all my life," also appeared to be a coded reference to Whitman's attempt to gloss over her years in Massachusetts in a television ad.)

Brown's announcement was light on specifics, and the ideas he offered were not so different from what Republicans are saying. He vowed that, "in this time of recession ... there will be no new taxes, unless you the people vote for them," which leaves open the possibility of raising taxes when the economy, already seeming on the mend, gets a little better. He called, as Whitman and her GOP opponent Steve Poizner have – and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did – to "downsize government" and give more power to local officials and school districts. And he said he'd tried to ease "the partisan paralysis" in Sacramento.

The Republicans began attacking even before Brown announced. Whitman released a "Voter's Guide to Jerry Brown" with a list of "fiscal failures," citing examples from his record on taxes and spending, and hinting at more to come, labeling it "Part I." In a statement, she contrasted her private sector experience with Brown's "40-year career in politics which has resulted in a trail of failed experiments, undelivered promises, big government spending and higher taxes."

Poizner, who is mostly focused on Whitman, whom he trails in polls, said the state needs "bold, new conservative solutions" and "cannot fall prey to the same high-tax policies and special interest-run government that has led our state into a fiscal disaster."

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento