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Skelton: It's time for Jerry Brown to speak up

June 8, 2010 |  9:37 pm

Now that Jerry Brown has every California voters’ attention, he really should say something.

And there’ll never be a better time than when he holds his first post-primary news conference Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.

So far in this election season, Brown has been able to avoid specifics about how he’d pull California government back from the abyss.

That’s because he was clever and intimidating enough to scare off any serious opposition en route to the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday.

Now Brown’s up against Republican billionaire Meg Whitman, who already has kicked in about $70 million of her own fortune  to capture the GOP nomination  and seems willing to double down in order to pulverize Brown on TV before November.

It’s definitely time — and probably long past it — for Brown to pitch voters about why they should return him to the governor’s office after an absence of 28 years. And why, having already served two terms as governor, he even wants to return for another stint at age 72.

   So far, his argument basically has been that he offers “the preparation and the knowledge and the know-how to get California working again.”

   “We need someone with insider’s knowledge,” he says, “but an outsider’s mind.”

   But to do what? And how exactly?

-- George Skelton in Sacramento

   Brown promises “no smoke and mirrors … no new taxes unless the people vote for them … to downsize state government … and return decisions” to local government.

   He said all that when he formally announced his candidacy three months ago.  And he didn’t elaborate in an election night statement Tuesday. Brown needs to put some meat on the bones or he’ll be blown away by Whitman.

   It’ll be hard to make the case that many of Whitman’s ideas are impractical and cockeyed — and they are — if Brown doesn’t offer better thoughts.

   There are three possible reasons why Brown hasn’t been specific about how he’d fix the state.

   -- He doesn’t know.

   -- He doesn’t want to stick his head up to be shot at.

   -- The timing hasn’t been right.

   No. 1: He’d better know, or at least give voters some confidence that he has a clue.

   No. 2:  His head is up anyway and soon will be the target of sustained fire.

   No. 3: The timing is ripe. He’ll have the voters’ eyes and ears at least for the next week or two, before vacation season hits.

  “He’s got to get some focus on the future,” says veteran Democratic consultant Bill Carrick. “He’s got to make a compelling case why he’s got the skills to do the job.  He’s got to demonstrate that he’s going to be different than the status quo — going to be different than what’s going on in Sacrament right now.”

   Brown and Whitman offer a stark contrast for voters.

   One is the career pol, even if he has always rankled the political establishment.  The other is the former EBay chief who wasn’t even on the political planet — rarely even voted — until relatively recently.

    The Democrat is a fiscal moderate and a social and environmental liberal. The Republican is a fiscal and environmental conservative who leans moderate on social issues. They disagree on many things.

     Brown needs to engage the debate.

   --George Skelton in Sacramento