The Day After: Brown Looks Ahead While Kashkari Recaps Race

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Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in his Sacramento office. (Scott Detrow/KQED)

The day after winning an unprecedented fourth term in office, California Gov. Jerry Brown is sounding both reflective -- and resolved to strike a pragmatic balance between Democratic Party ideals and the state's long-term needs.

Brown told reporters gathered in his office that he had recently spent some time reading through clippings from his first two terms in office, in the 1970s and early '80s.

“I think I was carving out a path that was not sustainable,” Brown said about the era when he was the subject of Dead Kennedys lyrics.

He says that’s one reason why during his second go-round, Brown has remained committed to nuts-and-bolts issues, particularly the state budget.

“It’s a challenge to be fiscally responsible, and on the other hand to keep faith with the aspirations and hopes of the Democratic Party and those looking for more and more government spending and investment,” he said.

During his limited campaigning this year, Brown repeatedly pointed to the fact that under his watch, the state has gone from crippling deficits to sizable surpluses. (Of course, the overall economy, new budget-crafting rules and increased taxes played a big role in that reversal, too.)

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“If you abandon that [commitment to those Democratic aspirations], you become really incoherent as Democratic leader,” Brown said. “If you totally give into it you fall prey to budget deficits and chaos and public dissatisfaction.”

That being the case, Brown said he’ll aim to spend the next four years “combining the hopes with what government can do while putting reins on what it should not do.”

'For Me, Prop. 30 Was Temporary'

Top on the “should not do” list, Brown said, would be extending the Proposition 30 tax hikes, passed in 2012, but begin to phase out in 2016.

“For me, Prop 30 was temporary. That’s what I said, and I mean it,” he said Wednesday.

Still, a handful of Democrats in the Legislature have begun to call for an extension. There has been growing dissatisfaction among the party’s rank-and-file lawmakers about Brown’s hesitancy to increase social services spending, and Brown’s philosophical balance between spending and progressive ideas could be tested over that issue in the coming years.

On Climate Change, 'I’ll Do Whatever I Can'

One issue Brown has no reluctance to forge ahead on is climate change. California is the only state with its own cap-and-trade program, aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The governor has said he hopes to pass even tougher emissions limits in his next term.

Brown said he isn’t worried that California remains on far ahead of the curve, when it comes to capping greenhouse gases.

“I’m going to take it as one of my major responsibilities to help bring people around. So I will go to Washington, I’ll go to other places, and I’ll do whatever I can,” he said.

That will include, he said, a push to get to the point where California gets more than 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar power.

Brown dismissed the idea that Republican gains in statehouses and the Senate may slow efforts to enact cap-and-trade systems elsewhere.

“The fact there may be a temporary stall in some states or even Washington does not stop the climate from changing, and does not stop the…near-unanimity in the scientific community that we have to do something,” he said.

The energy industry has spent a lot of time and effort in recent months criticizing California’s climate change regulations, which are set to expand to include gasoline sales. As Brown ramps up his climate change evangelism, you can expect the push back to grow, as well.

A Campaign Postmortem

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Neel Kashkari has published a public postmortem on his first run for office. The former U.S. Treasury official posted a 12-page memo on his website, looking back at what worked and didn’t work during the campaign.

“I didn’t appreciate how important and how hard it would be to develop name recognition in a state of 38 million people,” wrote Kashkari, who did, in fact, struggle mightily to get voters to remember him. Despite getting a lot of media attention, “all of the press coverage we earned didn’t move the needle. It came down to paid advertising for which we didn’t have much money.”

Kashkari was blunt about his struggles to raise cash.

“I did not anticipate the fatigue major Republican donors felt after very well-funded defeats in 2010 and 2012. Indeed many donors have simply given up on California and instead donate to races outside the state, such as for the U.S. Senate.”

Kashkari ultimately spent several million dollars of his own money on the race.

“As the primary proceeded I realized my savings could move the needle so I felt an obligation to do whatever I could to support our campaign,” he wrote.

Kashkari spent a large percentage of his net worth and lost by 17 points. Still, he said he “found the process of running for governor a wonderful, enriching experience that allowed me to meet the widest possible diversity of people, from homeless people living on the street, to working Californians struggling to build a better life for themselves.” You can read his full memo here.