Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Governor of California"

The present-day office of the Governor of California. Governor Jerry Brown was clearly at work in his office today judging by the California Highway Patrolman standing guard outside this door who wasn’t terribly thrilled by my attempt at taking a photo.

Fun fact about the Governor of California’s office: It’s located on the ground floor and takes up several suites in the southeast corner of the State Capitol. If you’re walking through Capitol Park and know which window to look for, you can often easily see the Governor sitting at his desk and working. Governor Schwarzenegger was instantly recognizable, but not in his office as frequently as Governor Brown.

The more intimate private office of California Governor George Pardee (1903-1907).

This is what the office would have looked like on April 18, 1906 if you were tasked with informing California Governor George Pardee that a devastating earthquake had just struck San Francisco

A few days ago, I was asked a whole bunch of questions about the Presidential line of succession, Acting Presidents, the process for Presidential succession, and what happens in the case of multiple vacancies in the line of succession — as an example, if the offices of President, Vice President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate were all vacant and the official next in line to the Presidency (the Secretary of State) would have to assume the office of President.

Interestingly, this weekend here in my home State of California, there will be a rare display of the continuity of government process in action, featuring the position of Governor of California rather than the President of the United States.

The Sacramento Bee notes that California Governor Jerry Brown will be traveling to Mexico on an official trade and investment mission from Sunday afternoon until late Wednesday. Whenever the Governor is out of the state, the Lieutenant Governor takes charge of California as the Acting Governor, so Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom will serve in that role from the time of Governor Brown’s departure on Sunday until Tuesday morning, when Newsom will be leaving the state for business, as well.

With Governor Brown and Lieutenant Governor Newsom out of the state, the President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate (and fellow Sacramentan) Darrell Steinberg will assume the role of Acting Governor from Tuesday until Wednesday. Governor Brown is scheduled to return home to California on Wednesday, but not before Senator Steinberg also has a trip scheduled outside of California! When Governor Brown, Lieutenant Governor Newsom, and Senator Steinberg are all absent, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, Toni Atkins, will become Acting Governor of California for at least a few hours until Governor Brown finally arrives back from Mexico. Although Atkins will only spend a few quiet hours as Acting Governor on Wednesday, during that brief window of time, she’ll become the first openly lesbian Californian to serve in that role.

Interestingly, whenever the Governor of California is out of the state and the duties fall to the Acting Governor (usually the Lieutenant Governor), those duties are, technically, quite substantial. Traditionally, the Acting Governor does not take any dramatic action or alter the policy of the elected Governor while he or she is briefly absent from the state. However, during the Governor’s absence, the Acting Governor can actually issue executive orders, make political appointments, and sign or veto legislation. During Jerry Brown’s first stint as Governor of California (1975-1983), he decided to challenge Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic Presidential nomination and spent a significant amount of time outside of California while campaigning in other states. California’s Lieutenant Governor, Mike Curb, was a Republican and opposed to many of Brown’s policies. While Governor Brown campaigned out of state in his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Lieutenant Governor Curb — serving as Acting Governor — vetoed legislation Brown had planned to sign, issued executive orders establishing different policies than that of Brown, and appointed Republicans, Brown opponents, and Curb loyalists to various political vacancies. When Governor Brown returned to California after his campaign-related absences from the state, he attempted to overturn Lieutenant Governor Curb’s actions while serving as Acting Governor, but the California Supreme Court ruled in Curb’s favor, deciding that the executive powers of the Governor’s office indeed devolved on to the Acting Governor (Curb) in the absence of the actual Governor (Brown) and it was within the rights of the Acting Governor to discharge those duties.

Fortunately for Brown, who is now serving his second stint as Governor, he likely won’t have to worry about his Gubernatorial duties being hijacked by the opposition during this week’s trade mission to Mexico like they were 35 years ago by his Republican Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb. This week’s four Governors in four days are all Democrats and Jerry Brown loyalists.

First of all, I want to mention that I LOVE the blanket primary. For those who don’t know, California has adopted a blanket (or “top-two”) primary system in which the candidates for each office are all entered in the same primary and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. That opens up the possibility of two members of the same party possibly facing off against each other in the general election.

In many areas — not just in California, of course, but throughout the entire country — one party is dominant year-after-year. For example, if there is a region of the state where Democrats have held a Congressional seat for years with little risk of losing it to a Republican, a regular primary between two Democrats is often where the election is actually decided. In those instances, a Democrat (I’m just using a Democrat as an example, not referring to anything specific) would win nomination and go on to face the Republican nominee in the general election, but the election would never have been in doubt because it was a safe Democratic seat. With the blanket primary, all the candidates for the office from all the parties face off and the two candidates who win the most votes take each other on in November. In those traditionally safe areas, this opens up competition and encourages voters to make it to the polls since they are making an actual choice instead of taking part in a coronation.

With your question, I imagine you’re asking what I would think might happen if Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris both ran for Governor in 2018, were the top-two, and faced each other in the general election. Newsom is more well-known throughout California, but like I said in my other post, I think Harris has more appeal. She’s charismatic and tough, she’s brilliant and experienced, and she has the potential to shatter several glass ceilings — first female Governor of California, first African-American Governor of California, first Asian-American Governor of California — she’s the total package. Newsom is no pushover. He also has a ton of appeal and charisma, and they both have bright futures ahead of them. In my opinion, though, Harris would win. She would also definitely be my choice. During Obama’s campaign for President, I had a chance to meet Kamala numerous times and work pretty closely with her at several different events in Northern California. She’s incredible and she’s as grounded and humble as any politician I’ve ever encountered. I’m a huge Kamala fan and if she ran for Governor, I’d actually come out of my political “retirement” and want to work on her campaign.

I could also definitely see Kamala Harris on the Supreme Court, but I think she has ambitions for higher elective office — either Governor of California or a Senate seat once either Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer finally retires. As I mentioned in the last post, I could easily see her as a potential Vice President, even as soon as 2016. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, I think she’d probably balance the ticket with a running mate with executive experience — probably a Governor like Martin O’Malley of Maryland (who is a sleeper pick for President in 2016 if Hillary doesn’t run) or Kentucky’s Steve Beshear (remember that I mentioned his name, too). I think President Obama should have gotten rid of Eric Holder at the beginning of his second term and nominated Kamala Harris as Attorney General of the United States. But it actually might be better for Kamala in the long-run to not have ended up in the Obama Cabinet, especially as the President limps to the finish line with two full years to go before his term ends.

Do you have any thoughts on Neel Kashkari's run for governor against Jerry Brown?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

To paraphrase the great Charles Barkley’s quote when he was asked what he knew about Angola before the Dream Team played them during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, “I don’t know anything about Neel Kashkari, but Neel Kashkari’s in trouble.”

Governor Brown might beat Kashkari by 50% in November.  I’m curious to see whether Governor Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, or Attorney General Kamala Harris wins re-election by a larger margin.  Probably Brown, who would be a Presidential contender in 2016 if he wasn’t going to be 78 years old that year.  But Newsom and Harris are rising stars in the Democratic Party both in California and nationally.  Both of them are young and probably have their eyes on being Governor in 2018, and both of them could probably win.  Newsom has deeper pockets, but Harris has wider appeal.  Interestingly enough, Newsom likely would have the backing of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party while Harris would have the support of the Obama wing.  Back in 2008 — actually, way back in 2007 after Obama formed his exploratory committee — Kamala (who was District Attorney of San Francisco at the time) was the first elected official in California to fully support Obama.  I remember her driving herself up to Sacramento in the evenings to help out at events where there were less than a dozen people and this way as early as March 2007 (Obama officially jumped in the race in February), so I imagine the President will do whatever he can for her in the future.

I would bet that the California Democratic Party will be watching the returns of the races of Newsom and Harris much closer than Governor Brown’s race.  All three are certain to be re-elected, but the CDP will be looking for its next Governor between Newsom and Harris (with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson as a dark horse), so the more impressive margin of victory could have future implications.  Also, this might sound a little crazy if you’re unfamiliar with Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom, but I could easily see either one of them as the next Vice President of the United States, so you might want to get to know them.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
You commented on the NBA earlier and I know you're from sacramento so what do you think about kevin johnson's role?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Kevin Johnson is a superstar.  The work that KJ — former NBA star, Sacramento native, and current Mayor of Sacramento — did over the past few years to help save the Sacramento Kings, get the new Sacramento arena project on track, and rebuild the city’s trust and hope in the Kings after the Maloof family nearly ruined professional basketball in Sacramento made him a hero in my hometown.  Now, with the Donald Sterling situation, Mayor Johnson took a leadership role in consultation with Chris Paul and the NBA Player’s Association and has been an eloquent voice on behalf of the players over the past few days.

KJ is a political star, but he’s in a tough spot.  Currently, Jerry Brown is running for re-election as Governor of California (and is a shoo-in for re-election).  Governor Brown will seemingly serve until 2019.  Mayor Johnson would normally be a rising political star possibly in line for a shot at Governor, but he’s got a couple other young, rising (or already-risen) political stars amongst California Democrats — Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris, either of whom will likely want a shot at the Governor’s office, eventually.  If either Senator Boxer or Senator Feinstein finally decide to step down, there’s a possibility that a Senate seat might be a good fit for Kevin Johnson.  I think Kamala Harris has a better shot and brighter prospects nationally, but Kevin Johnson can’t be counted out.  Who knows?  Maybe he’ll happily remain in his hometown of Sacramento, but I think he has bigger ambitions…

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi! I know you are from california originally and am curious about whether you know much about gray davis, the governor who was recalled. I learned about the recall in class and am curious about gray davis. sorry if its not about presidents!!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Gray Davis’s campaign for Governor of California in 1998 was the first campaign that I ever worked on, and I am proud of it.  Governor Davis was a good man and a good Governor during a terrible time for California.  The energy crisis that engulfed his Administration at the beginning of his second term in 2003 was engineered by Enron, which was later found to be manipulating the California’s energy supply.  The recall effort was engineered by Darrell Issa, who thought he would swoop in and become Governor himself until Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to jump in the race.  It was a joke and Governor Davis deserved better.  The people of California did him wrong — especially since they re-elected him less than a year before tossing him out of office and tarnishing his name by the very act of triggering a recall.

And Governor Davis was never bitter about it.  He never got angry with the people of California or the people who unfairly targeted him.  He did his best to make Governor Schwarzenegger’s transition as easy as possible in a very weird situation.  I have a ton of respect for Gray Davis and always will be proud that his 1998 bid for Governor was my first campaign experience.  I still have my badge from the California Democratic Party’s victory party in Sacramento on Election night in 1998.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think of Jerry Brown
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I’m a big Jerry Brown fan, and I think he’s doing about as good of a job as anybody could possibly do as Governor of California.

Plus, how can you not love a guy who actually said this at a press conference: “Analysis paralysis is not why I came back.  I want to get shit done.”

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Jerry Brown ran for president three times - 1976, 1980, and 1992. If you had to pick one, which instance would you say "fit" the best? Which Jerry Brown campaign was just at the right time?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

None of the campaigns were at the right time.  That’s the problem.  Poor Jerry Brown has been the victim of terrible timing.

In 1976, Brown had only been Governor of California for one year and was just 38 years old.  In reality, it was way too early for him to make a step toward the Presidency.  Oddly enough, it was also the closest that he ever got to winning the Democratic Presidential nomination.  Brown had name recognition because he was making headlines in California, was a fresh face who appeared to be at the forefront of the next generation of American politicians, and was the son of a former California Governor.  He made a good showing in some of the Democratic primaries in 1976, but he entered the race too late.  Jimmy Carter had too much of a head start and Brown simply couldn’t catch him.  Despite all of that, 1976 was probably his best shot.

The 1980 bid was rough because he was challenging an incumbent President for his own party’s nomination.  Governor Brown wasn’t the only Democrat challenging President Carter in 1980 and he wasn’t the most exciting or buzzworthy with the media — that was Senator Edward Kennedy.  Brown also faced backlash back home in California because it was the second time he sought the Presidency since being elected Governor.  Californians wanted him at work in Sacramento rather than hitting the trail in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Even if he had overcome Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination (not an easy task despite Carter’s unpopularity since Kennedy couldn’t beat him, either), Brown would have most likely been trounced in the general election by the man who preceded him as Governor of California — Ronald Reagan.

Jerry Brown’s 1992 campaign for the Democratic nomination was a very interesting one, largely because of the genuine animosity between Brown and the eventual nominee (and President) Bill Clinton.  There was a nasty confrontation in one of the Democratic debates where it looked for a moment like Clinton might actually punch Brown.  Because of his low-budget fundraising, Brown shouldn’t have done as well as he did in 1992, but he started picking up some momentum in the later primaries.  Unfortunately for Brown, he needed some of the earlier primaries to keep Clinton from clinching the nomination from the convention in order to force a brokered convention.  The dislike between Clinton and Brown was apparent at the Democratic National Convention when Brown refused to endorse Clinton during Brown’s speech.

Of the three bids that Jerry Brown made — 1976, 1980, and 1992 — it was the first attempt in 1976 that was probably the closest Brown came to winning the Democratic nomination.  The best chance that Brown might have had to become President was actually in a year that he didn’t run — 1988.  The field was wide-open for Democrats and Republicans because the election of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was no sure thing.  As I said, however, Brown’s timing when it came to seeking the Presidency has been rather unfortunate.

That hasn’t changed, by the way.  Right now, Jerry Brown looks like he will easily be re-elected as Governor of California in 2014.  From what I have read (granted, I haven’t lived in California since 2010),  Brown has been doing a better-than-expected job and his popularity is high.  Because of the size of the state, its worth in the Electoral College, and the nature of the job, California’s Governors are always potential Presidential contenders.  Unfortunately for Governor Brown, the man who was once the youngest Governor in California’s history is now the oldest Governor in California’s history and he’ll be 78 years old in 2016 — way too old to be a serious contender for the Presidency.  If he were 15 years younger, Brown would be a frontrunner in 2016

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who are your favorite Governors of all-time?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

That’s tough to say because it’s hard to rank the Governors of states that you don’t live in.  I’ll just go with my personal experience from living in California under several Governors because there is no way that Rick Perry, Governor of Texas while I lived there for a year, would ever make it on any list of mine.  And, while I live in Missouri now and it seems like Governor Jay Nixon is a solid executive, I still don’t know a whole lot about him.

From my experience in California, I have a soft spot for Governor Gray Davis, whose recall in 2003 was a complete travesty.  Time will vindicate Governor Davis — in fact, I think it has already started to, especially now that we know what we know about Enron and the electricity crisis which was a big factor in Governor Davis’s downfall.  Governor Davis was a hard-working, smart, effective public servant from his service in Vietnam to his devotion to California as Governor Brown’s chief of staff, State Assemblyman, State Controller, Lieutenant Governor, and then Governor.  With the trajectory he was on up until his Gubernatorial re-election in 2002, Davis was heading to national prominence.  Because he wasn’t very charismatic or an inspiring public speaker, I don’t think he the Presidency was a realistic goal, but he certainly could have been Vice President and probably would have been on John Kerry’s short list in 2004.  

But Governor Davis got a raw deal from Californians.  He became the scapegoat for problems that weren’t entirely his fault and he was the victim of a smear campaign that he couldn’t combat while trying to do his job and that he couldn’t outspend.  Plus, he had just won re-election just a few months before the recall campaign got going.  Gray Davis won re-election in November 2002 and his opponents decided that they wanted a do-over.  And then, in the midst of the circus-like atmosphere of the recall campaign, Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped into the spotlight and the voters of California got starry-eyed.  It was a shitty deal and Governor Davis deserved better from California.  Yet, he accepted the results of the recall with humility and never said a cross word about it or the voters or his opponents.  And he was incredibly helpful to Governor Schwarzenegger, both during the transition and after Schwarzenegger was inaugurated.

Gray Davis was the first politician who inspired me to get involved in a campaign and go to work for a candidate.  In 1998, I was only 18, but Davis — the Lieutenant Governor at the time — seemed like the perfect candidate for Governor.  He had paid his dues and undoubtedly had the best resume of any Gubernatorial candidate on the scene.  I went to a rally downtown near the State Capitol (where the legendary, beloved, and late Mayor of Sacramento Joe Serna stepped on my shoe and then talked to me for ten minutes about public service) and everything that Gray Davis said gave me confidence in him and his vision for California.  When I briefly met Gray Davis that day, I felt like he blocked everyone else out and focused on me for the two minutes that I had his attention.  As an 18-year-old, that was huge.  Later, of course, I realized that all great politicians are able to do that.  But I was sold.  And I still am.  I went to work for Gray Davis’s campaign in 1998 and on Election night, for the first time, I felt that amazing feeling of having your candidate win and it was a validation of all of the work we had done.  It was the moment where I got bit by the bug of working on high-stakes political campaigns.  Fifteen years later, when I see a candidate that piques my interest, I still get that itch to sign up, start training volunteers, canvass neighborhoods, register voters, and phone bank (okay…maybe not phone banking…I hate that).  I’ll never forget that it was Governor Davis that instilled that feeling in me.

I was too young to experience Jerry Brown’s first time as Governor of California (1975-1983), but I knew his reputation and was always fascinated by him.  I saw Governor Brown speak a few times when he was Mayor of Oakland and I met him when he was California’s Attorney General and always hoped that he would make another run for Governor.  Of course, once he did (in 2010), I had moved out of California.  

However, since his election, I have followed him from outside of the state and think that he’s done an amazing job as Governor.  From what I’ve seen, he is actually getting California moving in the right direction when it’s seemed for so long like the state was broken and might be too big and too broke and too much to fix.  Apparently (and this is from what I understand from what I read and hear out here in Missouri), Governor Brown has done such a remarkable job that some of the younger Democrats and potential Republicans who considered taking him on in 2014 (when Governor Brown will be 76) aren’t even going to risk it.  One friend I have back in Sacramento who is a political consultant said that, if Governor Brown were 10 or 15 years younger, he’d be a viable Presidential candidate in 2016 (Brown made unsuccessful bids for the Presidency in 1976, 1980, and 1992).  So, I’m going to go ahead and count Jerry Brown as one of my favorite Governors, too.

Oh, and I had no experience living under him or in his state, but I always thought Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s shocking election as Governor of Minnesota in 1998 was awesome.  I loved his unorthodox campaign ads and the fact that he was a professional wrestler and the party he had after his inauguration where he wore a pink boa and some of the funky clothes he used to wear.  I liked the fact that he was an independent and that he named his autobiography I Ain’t Got Time To Bleed (BOOKKINDLE) after his famous line in Predator.  I enjoyed his candor and thought it was refreshing, and it was fun to see the incumbent Governor of Minnesota not only be the special referee at SummerSlam but throw Shane McMahon out of the ring and yell, “That’s for your old man, you little bastard!”.  That’s not something you’d ever see his successor, Tim Pawlenty, or Iowa’s long-serving Governor Terry Branstad do.

So, from afar, I thought Governor Ventura was pretty cool.  Then he left office and became a complete nutjob.  I mean, he may have always been one, but when he was Jesse “The Body”, he was fun.  Former Governor Ventura, however, is totally unbearable to watch or listen to.  Of course, everything is a conspiracy to him, so he’ll probably find this post and accuse me of being part of the Illuminati.  It’s easy for me to say that Governor Ventura was fun to watch from a couple of thousand miles away, but I’m sure the novelty wore off pretty quickly for the people of Minnesota.  And I’m sure people said the same thing about Governor Schwarzenegger.

We’ll stick with Gray Davis and Jerry Brown as my favorites and, from what I’ve seen of him, I like Governor Nixon here in Missouri.  

(By the way, Missourians, Gov. Nixon is term-limited, so the Governor’s Mansion is wide-open in 2016.  Anthony for Governor?  Who wants to donate?)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I know youve said you met Obama and I know you lived in Sacramento, so did you ever meet Arnold??
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I did.  The first time was when I was leaving one of my favorite restaurants in Sacramento, the Esquire Grill, which is about a block away from the State Capitol and very close to the Hyatt Regency, which is where Governor Schwarzenegger stayed whenever he didn’t go home to Los Angeles. 

I was walking out of the Esquire and held the door for a small group of obvious politicians — not an unusual sight in Downtown Sacramento on a weekday.  I didn’t notice who it was immediately, but I heard him say, “Thank you,” and when I heard that unmistakable accent, I quickly said, “Uh, you’re welcome, Governor.”  It wasn’t my smoothest moment.  He shook my hand and was very pleasant. 

I had another minor interaction with him just a few months after Obama announced he was running for President.  We were putting together some sort of event in Sacramento and I had some invitations that I was supposed to drop off to potential surrogates and supporters at the Capitol.  I delivered the invitations to a few State Senators and members of the State Assembly and had one to deliver to Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.  The Lieutenant Governor’s office is on the first floor, directly across the hall from the Governor’s office.  When I came out of Lieutenant Governor Garamendi’s office, I saw Governor Schwarzenegger and two of his staffers walking into his office.  No one else was in the hallway except one CHP officer who was standing nearby.  I wanted to joke around and invite him to the Obama event, but once again, I came across like a complete nerd and just said, “Hi, Governor.”  He waved as he headed into his office and I walked down the hallway thinking to myself, “Hi, Governor?!  Who the hell do I think I am?  Way to connect with the big wigs, Anthony.”

I saw Governor Schwarzenegger give a couple of speeches, too.  One thing I noticed is that there is no way in hell that he is 6’2” as his bio says and how he was always listed as a bodybuilder.  On a good day, I am a little over 5’8” and I would say that there’s no way that Schwarzenegger is more than 5’10”.  Also, he must have the best tailor in the world because on each occasion that I saw him I quickly noticed how nice his business suits looked, and if you’ve ever seen my wardrobe, you’d know that I’m no expert on fashion.

More on Arnold will be coming soon because I am working on my review of his recently-released autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story (BOOKKINDLE), which I really enjoyed and which gave me an appreciation and respect for the former Governor that I hadn’t expected.