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Governor 2010: A race where the older guy has the real fresh ideas
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Dianne Feinstein – arguably the best choice for California’s next governor – isn’t likely to run for the Golden State’s top elected office unless she has a martyr streak a thousand miles wide.

This means the future of California will probably rest with one of two men – San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, 41, or State Attorney General Jerry Brown, 71.

Newsom – who delivered the infamous gloating rant that gay marriage was coming “whether you like it or not” – is trying to paint the match-up as a “stroll down memory lane” versus “a sprint into the future.”

Jerry Brown may be a lot of things but the one thing he isn’t is a man who strolls down memory lane. You can make an argument that his original eight-year term of governor from 1975 to 1983 came about a quarter of a century too soon.

The man who literally gave life to the small government movement through his “Era of Limitations” and “Small is Beautiful” philosophies that he tried in vain to put in place is arguably still focused on the future while Newsom is using the same-old, same-old solution of throwing more government money and regulations at problems. Newsom – who prides himself on being Obama-like in youth and use of high tech campaign technology – apparently agrees with the President in day-to-day operations as he continues to launch more programs with more money attached. The big difference is San Francisco - just like the State of California – can’t run up a deficit as the federal government can. Right now San Francisco’s $438 million deficit in next year’s budget has been pared down to $118 million after almost $100 million in concessions from employee groups and 25 percent budget cuts in many departments. The city controller anticipates the deficit will swell to $750 million by 2011 while Newsom continues to launch new initiatives.

Brown also represents a maverick approach to campaigns and leading. He doesn’t play the traditional games. At the Democratic Convention in Sacramento this past weekend while Newsom had the prerequisite rock idol entourage and was blanketing the convention hall with high-priced free stuff like metal water bottles with his name on them, Brown was doing what only Brown has dared to do for years. He went about the convention solo talking one-on-one with delegates. His big splash party for the convention was what he dubbed a “recession reception” that consisted of some beer keg, soft drinks as well as chips and salsa.

Brown got it before any other politician in California did and he gets it today. The California gold mine is being played out. The state can’t keep living off its golden age – which ironically reached its zenith under the leadership and vision of Brown’s farther the late Gov. Edmund G. Brown Sr.

Ronald Reagan beat Brown’s father in a landslide in part due to Sacramento’s weak response to riots and campus. Reagan got elected and the state went on a spending spree powered by rising revenue from the groundwork for prosperity laid under the older Brown’s administration.

Contrast the Reagan era in Sacramento with Jerry Brown who made a serious effort to curtail spending and expectations.

It didn’t work. The California Legislature was hell-bent to keep spending money and dreaming up new government programs to appease constituents of all political leanings.

Brown was accused of not being pragmatic. He was cured of that shortcoming as Oakland mayor. In perhaps the most defining moment of Brown’s time at the helm in Oakland, he put in place a military-style school in the inner city that showed improvements in grades, drops in discipline problems and vast strides in student safety only to have it killed after a short run by “liberals” who were offended that such a regimented school was funded with tax dollars.

That incident clearly contrasts the world Newsom has in mind for California against one that Brown has since Newsom has cast his lot with supporters who separate themselves from their liberal brethren by being anti-pragmatic. Results matter more than form with Brown. Newsom oozes political correctness.

Brown understands that importance of being pragmatic more than ever. At the same time he is perhaps the only candidate who truly gets it – failing to curb government is what’s changing the California Dream into the California Nightmare.