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History lesson: Why Jerry Brown is called 'Moonbeam'

October 25, 2010 |  8:34 am

Jerry Brown

In 1976, a Chicago newspaper columnist wrote that Jerry Brown would get "the moonbeam vote."

The writer was Mike Royko, who then started referring to the then-38-year-old Brown as "Gov. Moonbeam." Royko was suggesting that Brown was attracting California's New Age crowd. 

Brown was a strong supporter of space exploration and many of the earliest statewide green initiatives. Yet he also gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative, refusing many perks that came with the governorship.

Royko eventually retracted his statement, and in 1991 in the Chicago Tribune, he called the moniker "null, void and deceased." He called it a "meaningless throwaway line."

But in 1991, when Brown announced he would run for president, Roger Simon wrote in the Los Angeles Times: "It's not so much that Brown has changed but that the times have changed around him. I'm serious when I say that in some ways America has caught up with Jerry Brown."

Simon continued: "Brown was a New Wave politician before the phrase was coined. His campaign platform was: 'Protect the Earth, serve the people, explore the universe.' He was the candidate of new, unconventional ideas."

Brown is now 72.

Based on his current campaign and experience, do you think he still embodies the nickname "Moonbeam"?  And more importantly, do you think being called "Moonbeam" has had a positive effect on his current campaign?

-- Lori Kozlowski

Photo: Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown gives a speech at the Moving America Forward rally on the USC campus on Oct. 21, 2010. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times