Democrat Jerry Brown has won the California gubernatorial race, proving that there is a second act in politics — and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth — with the 72-year-old defeating Republican former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
With 8% of precincts reporting, Brown leads by 48%-47%, and has been projected as the winner by Fox News and the Los Angeles Times.
This will not be Brown’s first time in the governor’s mansion, as he’s been there before in both his youth and adulthood. His father Pat Brown was governor from 1959-1967, losing to Ronald Reagan in 1966. Then Jerry was elected California Secretary of State in 1970, and succeeded Reagan as governor in 1974. He ran for president in 1976, was re-elected governor in 1978, ran for president again in 1980, and then lost a Senate race in 1982.
During Brown’s previous tenure as governor, he gained a somewhat false reputation as a left-wing Democrat, owing to his counter-cultural sensibilities. In fact, he was in many ways a fiscal conservative, and had tense relations with public employee unions. But just look at his previous official gubernatorial portrait:
But he was not done yet. He ran again for President in 1992, winning several Democratic primaries as an alternative candidate to Bill Clinton. In 1999 he was elected Mayor of Oakland, was re-elected in 2003, and in 2006 was elected state Attorney General. Now he becomes governor of California again, 28 years after he originally left the office.
This time around, Brown faced an initially strong Republican opponent in Meg Whitman, who brought two assets to the table. One was her pitch as a tough businesswoman. And the other was her money — spending over $140 million of her own wealth on the race, becoming the biggest self-financing candidate in American history.
For a while Whitman had been ahead in the polls. But then things started to turn against her just over a month ago. In the end, three big things sealed Whitman’s fate: Continued negative press coverage and voter resentment over her big self-financing, a scandal over having hired an illegal immigrant housekeeper, and continued voter resentment at her negative ads against Brown — which culminated in her being booed when she said at a public forum that she would not pull all her attack ads.
At a certain point, Brown figured out how to make his seemingly lifelong incumbency into an asset, with a clever ad that featured video of Whitman reminiscing about how great California was 30 years ago — when he was governor: