50 years is a long time to do anything professionally. It’s an even longer time to be a politician, and an even longer time to be a successful one with election wins to prove it. But against those odds, Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr. has endured in California government through nearly five decades. And while being the son of a popular former governor no doubt helped his chances, Brown would eventually blaze his own trail and carve out his own place in California political history as more than just Pat Brown’s son.
Jerry Brown’s path was anything but ordinary. He dropped out of college at Santa Clara University to enter a Jesuit seminary and pursue a career as a Catholic priest. Over his nearly 50 years in California politics, he has held offices including mayor of Oakland, secretary of state, attorney general and two separate stints as California governor separated by nearly 30 years. He even hosted his own talk radio show for several years during the 1990s. When he stepped down from the governor’s office in 2019, he held the titles of both the oldest and sixth-youngest governor of California as well as its third longest-serving chief executive. Across those terms, he helped build up the state’s surplus coffers, established himself as a strong environmentalist and made California the fifth state to allow doctor-assisted suicide.
But as you might imagine, half a century in politics doesn’t come without some bumps in the road. He ran for president three times and the U.S. Senate once, coming up short in all of those campaigns. And for as much of a fiscal conservative as he was branded during his first two terms, he was often criticized for his spending choices during his second two, particularly for the California High-Speed Rail and the $17 billion twin tunnel project.
In the new podcast “The Political Mind of Jerry Brown” KQED News’ Scott Shafer and Guy Marzorati spend more than 40 hours with the former chief executive charting his path through California politics and sifting through his observations and lessons learned with a fine-toothed comb.
Today on AirTalk, Scott and Guy stop by to talk about the making the podcast, some of the major themes that came across in their work-week’s worth of interviews and what they learned both about Brown and California politics in the process.
With guest host Kyle Stokes