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Gavin Newsom taunts Jerry Brown at state Democratic convention

April 25, 2009 |  3:04 pm

Gavin Newsom taunted rival Jerry Brown on Saturday by framing the Democratic race for governor as a choice between a "sprint into the future" with the San Francisco mayor or "a stroll down memory lane" with a man who held the job in the 1970s.

Newsom avoided mentioning Brown's name in remarks to several thousand Democrats at a state party convention. But it was lost on no one that the target of his jabs was the 71-year-old attorney general who hopes to recapture the job of governor that he first won in 1974.

"We're not a state of memories," said the 41-year-old mayor, who formally declared his candidacy in the June 2010 primary on Tuesday. "We're a state of dreams. We're Californians. We're not content to relive history. We're going to keep making it."

Brown refused Newsom's bait, apart from saying it was hard, in party convention speeches, to "use words that express not cliches and bombast and empty rhetoric, but really speak the truth."

Brown also reminded the crowd he was not yet campaigning openly for the 2010 election, then went on to joke about his decades in California politics.

"I've run for more offices than any other candidate that still is alive, or is around, but there's a time and place for everything," he said.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the third likely major contender in the Democratic primary for governor, skipped the gathering to tend to the city budget crisis back home. But in an opening shot at Newsom, who is marketing himself as the rage on social networking websites, an advisor told reporters on Friday that Villaraigosa would not "Twitter while Rome burns."

 In an interview, Newsom called on Villaraigosa to tone down the rhetoric. "Candidly," Newsom said, "I wanted to call him, honestly, and say, 'What was that? No need for that.' I'm his friend, not an enemy."

The three-way jockeying was the main event of the state party's first convention since Democrats recaptured the White House and expanded its control of Congress in November. Party leaders were also preparing for a messy internal conflict on Sunday over budget measures on the May 19 special election ballot, with labor unions and other key constituencies divided on whether Democrats should rally behind the propositions.

-- Michael Finnegan, reporting from Sacramento