A strange thing seems to be happening in California. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the former governor from 1975-1983, recent mayor of Oakland from 1999-2007, and three-time presidential candidate, appears to actually be the favorite to be the next governor -- making for a whole new act for one of the most colorful political personalities that state has had in the last 50 years.
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As a new profile in the American Prospect explains, Brown has been known for his eccentric mix of progressive cultural values and fiscally conservative governance. When he was governor, he was strongly supportive of civil rights, the environment and labor unions, but was also very tight with money. He once famously declared: "I am going to starve the schools financially until I get some educational reforms." And when he ran for president in 1992, he supported the traditionally right-wing flat tax.
Beyond that, Brown is best known for his colorful personal life when he was governor -- he picked up the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" for his practice of Zen meditation, and he dated singer Linda Ronstadt while he was in office. There also the matter of his rather unconventional official state portrait, shown above. This all contributed to a somewhat inaccurate caricature of him as a left-winger. But now, he's been emerging as the well-known, safe choice for governor, to succeed the term-limited Republican Arnold Schwarzengger -- himself a colorful personality for obvious reasons.