Why I’ll Be a Better Governor for California than Jerry Brown

Note from Robert Cruickshank – Calitics has a policy of promoting diaries from electeds and candidates to the front page when the diaries are topical, important, or provide valuable information to our readers, and this one certainly counts as all three. However, this should not be construed as an endorsement of Peter Schurman.

Cross-posted at Huffington Post and at Daily Kos.

On June 8th, Californians will choose our party nominees for Governor.  I’m running as a progressive challenger to Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary.

For nearly twenty years, I’ve been a bare-knuckled fighter for regular people and common-sense, progressive values. I was the Founding Executive Director at MoveOn.org, America’s strongest progressive advocacy organization. Although I’ve never run for elected office, I am qualified to be Governor and here’s why I’ll do a better job for California than Jerry Brown.

California needs a fighter right now.  Six-plus years of Republican rule have left our state in crisis.  We need a leader committed to aggressively confronting and cleaning up the mess the Republicans have made, not someone who wants to split the difference.

Here are three of the biggest challenges facing California.  As our party’s front-runner, Jerry Brown should be facing these issues head-on.  Instead, he’s running away from them.

* Money: California, the golden state, has a larger economy than all but 7 countries — yet our government is broke, and regular people are struggling to make ends meet.  Every day we hear another story of budget cuts to vital state programs.  The human costs of these cuts include schools cramming almost 40 of our children into single classrooms, domestic violence shelters closing, massive tuition hikes at our public colleges, and thousands of layoffs from our Healthy Families program.  Why are we letting this happen?  

We have a choice.  Instead of rolling over and accepting these cuts, we can raise the $19 billion we need to turn our beautiful state around.  We can do it mainly by making the oil companies, the big commercial property owners, the corporations, and the richest people pay their fair share — which none of them are doing today.  We can also legalize and tax marijuana, tax services like lawyers as we do physical goods, and end incentive programs that aren’t working.  On my website, I’ve laid out a specific plan to raise the $19 billion it will take to close our ongoing budget deficit and stop the cuts, so we can start taking care of our children instead of the oil companies and real-estate tycoons.

I will do this without raising the burden on struggling Californians.  In fact, I’ll make things easier for people in the lowest income bracket, because right now they’re paying a bigger share of their income than anyone else, and I’ll change that by making the big guys start pulling their weight.

Budget cuts and the $19 billion deficit driving them are arguably the most serious problems facing our state.  What’s Jerry Brown’s answer?  He has none.  He says only that he won’t raise taxes.  He may think that’s smart politics, but it’s not the kind of leadership we need.

* Democracy: You might think we have a democracy in Sacramento, where we settle our differences by majority vote.  In fact, we don’t.  Instead, Sacramento has a 2/3 rule that gives the Republican minority the power to hold our state’s finances hostage, even though we elect solid majorities of Democrats to represent us.  Republicans exploit this power ruthlessly, preventing us from raising the revenues we need, because their Wall Street backers don’t want to pay their fair share.  It’s one of the biggest reasons our state’s in such a deep hole.

We’ve got to end the 2/3 rule and get the Republican boot off our neck.  There’s just no way around it.

You’d think Jerry Brown would agree.  But, incredibly, he’s taken steps this spring to sabotage the campaign to end the 2/3 rule.  As Attorney General, he changed the wording of an important ballot initiative in a way that scares people away from standing up for our rights.

I support ending the 2/3 rule, and so do 70% of Californians.  But Jerry Brown is carrying water for the Republicans, not fighting for us.

* Health Care: Our health care system is a mess.  The problem is the health insurance companies.  They are parasites, sucking up massive sums of money, and giving us paperwork, rate hikes, and denials of coverage in return.  Although President Obama’s new health care law reins in some of their worst abuses, it also perpetuates the problem, by forcing us to buy their inadequate product, and offering no other option.

A better answer is “Medicare for All”, also known as single-payer health care, the most robust form of the “public option” that Californians asked for.  It’s simple and elegant: by getting the insurance companies out of the way, we get better care, and we save tons of money.  

With Medicare for All, the average California family will save more than $300.- per year.  Employers who insure their workers will save almost $800 per employee per year — freeing that money up to hire more people.  California as a whole will save $8 billion in the first year, and $343 billion over ten years.

The California Senate has passed our Medicare for All bill, SB 810 (sponsored by Senator Mark Leno).  The state assembly has passed similar legislation in recent years.  I’m committed to signing it if I’m elected Governor.  Sadly, Jerry Brown refuses to make the same commitment.


California needs a leader we can count on: one whose values are clear, and who fights for us reliably.  I love this state, and I’m fighting for it with everything I’ve got.

But with all of Jerry Brown’s experience, if he’s not willing to stand up and fight for us, what makes me think I can?

Take a look at my track record:

   * Stopping President Bush: As MoveOn’s Executive Director, I ran the campaign that defeated President Bush for the very first time after 9-11, when the U.S. Senate rejected his choices for judges on America’s top courts.  

   * Stopping President Bush again: Working closely with Hill leaders including Rep. Henry Waxman, I led MoveOn’s campaign that defeated President Bush’s 2004 budget in the House, despite Republican control there.

   * Protecting our Climate: I organized most of the grassroots support to pass California’s car emissions law, AB 1493, which was the basis for President Obama’s excellent new nationwide clean-car rules.

   * Getting Corporate Money out of our Democracy: I also organized the bulk of the grassroots support to pass the McCain-Feingold law, banning corporate “soft money” from our political system.

   * Protecting People from Air Pollution: Working for the American Lung Association, I persuaded several states to release their air pollution data in real time, so people with asthma can plan their days in safety.

   * Protecting the California Desert: At the Sierra Club, I helped secure crucial final votes to pass the California Desert Protection Act, the only major pro-environment law passed in the Clinton Administration.

   * Helping Eliminate the U.S. Budget Deficit: I helped run a young people’s campaign in 1992 that put deficit reduction on the front of the national agenda, helping spur President Clinton to balance the budget.

These are just a few examples of the difference I’ve made fighting for progressive values since the early 1990s.  My background, defeating Republican power and moving a positive agenda in the face of an entrenched opposition, is exactly the kind of leadership experience we need in our next Governor.

Governing California will require management chops too.  I have an M.B.A. from Yale, and my management skill is reflected in the enduring strength of organizations I’ve built:

   * As MoveOn.org’s Founding Executive Director (2001-2005), I grew the organization from 350,000 to to 3 million members, and grew its budget from $81,000 to $6.5 million.  I built a solid team, paid them competitive salaries, kept the books in order, and led MoveOn’s millions of members in winning several game-changing victories over the Bush administration.

   * As the Sierra Club’s first National Student Organizer, in the mid-1990s, I secured permanent funding for the Sierra Student Coalition, recruited and trained a corps of skilled student campaign leaders, and created new ways to engage 30,000 students in campaigns like protecting millions of acres of the Mojave Desert as wilderness.

My values are clear and consistent, and I’ve fought for them reliably over nearly twenty years.

I don’t owe favors to anyone, because I’ve always fought for the public interest, against the corporations, and I’ve never taken big money from any industry.  Can Jerry Brown say the same thing?

Does Jerry Brown have what it takes to fight for us?

Let’s look at one more major example: California’s climate-change action plan, known as AB 32.  AB 32 is state law, democratically passed and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.  But Meg Whitman is promising that if she’s elected, her first move will be to undo it.  She’s working for Texas oil companies, not California’s people.

What does Jerry Brown have to say about this?  He mounts a tepid defense of AB 32, saying he sees room for “adjustments.”

Here’s what I say about it:

Meg Whitman’s assault on AB 32 is utterly insane.  Undoing AB 32 not only threatens our survival, but it cuts the floorboards out from under our emerging clean-tech economy.  Building the new green economy will require investment, and investors need stability, not see-sawing.  Whitman is putting California at risk of blowing the greatest economic opportunity of this decade: green jobs.  Her attack on AB 32 is like going back 30 years and saying we shouldn’t develop the Internet.  Where would eBay be today?

This is the kind of vigorous fight against Meg Whitman and the Republicans that California needs.

With Whitman promising to spend at least $150 million from her Goldman Sachs bank account, Democrats need a candidate we can get excited about, one who can inspire the votes we’ll need to win in November.

Jerry Brown has a long record of service to our state.  But today, he’s not taking the leadership stands we need.  Is it any wonder that, according to a recent poll, 41 percent of people under 40 have no opinion of him?

We can do better.

I have the skills, the values, and the experience to lead our state successfully through the challenges we face today.  I’ve won major victories on behalf of regular people and common-sense values, and I’ve built powerful, enduring organizations.

Vote for progress on June 8th — or as early as next week, if you vote by mail.  Join my campaign for California’s future on Facebook, on Twitter, and at http://Peter4Gov.org.  Thank you.

11 thoughts on “Why I’ll Be a Better Governor for California than Jerry Brown”

  1. in your plan to raise money?

    Close tax “incentive” loopholes that aren’t working: $1 billion

  2. We need bold, unabashed progressives speaking their values as much as we can.

  3.  What about KNBC News Conference? What about Rachel Maddow, she has had Gavin Newsome on her show and is a native Californian.

    It all seem to me a bit too little too late, its May already, primaries are on June 8th and low turnout I would believe is expected its, not the actual election of Governor until Nov.

    As said before, where were you when blogs like this and I guess other progressive groups in California were BEGGING for somebody to primary Brown and nobody came forward.

    You should demand that Brown debate you.  

  4. Will you support licensing nuclear reactors to prevent the spoiling of vast tracts of natural desert by solar farms?

    Will you embrace the alternative energy solutions science has miraculously provided for us even though they’re not perfect?  Will you support research towards nuclear fusion technology which might well make nuclear energy cleaner, safer and better?  Or will you kick the can down the road by telling us that you’re still hoping for another miracle that provides boundless energy with no downsides?

    Granted, a lot of these are federal issues, but it’s going to be critical for our energy grid that the local officials involve support a realistic and environmentally friendly energy policy as we approach the decline of fossil fuels, so I’m really curious what your responses are.  Candidates who claim to be bold progressives and I align well generally, but this is the one area I find myself disappointed by most candidates.

    Thanks for your time.

  5. You’ve highlighted the main political divide in CA as one between those who realize dramatic structural change is imperative to maintaining the state’s economic/cultural influence and those who want to cling to a 20th Century status quo. Along that vein, have you given any thought to the healthcare reform dialogue beyond mere insurance reform?

    Most on the left (Mr. Brown included) would agree that insurance companies impose unnecessary costs on (and skim excessive profits from) our healthcare delivery system. In an economy where healthcare is 16% of GDP–of which insurance middlemen account for 1%-2%–the path toward a more healthy 7%-11% cannot be wrung solely from firing the middlemen who currently write the checks to pay providers (whether by single payer or by increased regulated competition).

    With regard to the primary, you, therefore, have the opportunity to gain some political leverage over Mr. Brown in the eyes of the left (as a more forward thinker) if you stop tilting at the familiar windmill of insurance reform and start throwing out some good ideas for transforming the fee-for-service system and for breaking up (or at least regulating) the regional monopolies that exist up and down California in various medical specialties and in for-profit hospital chains. Since Mr. Brown continues only to rail against the familiar villain of insurance companies, by using this tactic, you could potentially make Mr. Brown look like a clueless John McCain–going after congressional earmarks (when everyone on the left knows that, although horrible, earmarks are only a drop in the bucket of political dysfunction that needs reforming).

    The crucial question, then, is: Have you given sufficient thought to how healthcare should be reformed beyond imposition of single payer? Framing of this issue probably won’t matter much for the general election, but since you are such a master in the art of framing, for the primary, trying to engage your opponents in this area could give you the chance to land some powerful punches. The summary of your healthcare reform ideas above mentions only the familiar silver bullet of insurance reform. I suspect you have more arrows in your quiver than that. So let’s hear ’em. Jerry Brown may be content trimming some fat from the edges, but not you!

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