Willie Brown, the former San Francisco mayor and legendary speaker of the California Assembly, dropped an intriguing suggestion -- seemingly out of the blue -- in his column yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle. He suggested that Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell would be the instant favorite should he decide to run for lieutenant governor in 2010.
The suggestion is intriguing for two reasons: (1) Brown has been a long-time mentor to O'Connell. The two have been close since their days in the Assembly, when O'Connell, who represented Ventura County in the Legislature for two decades, served as speaker pro tem under Brown. And, (2) O'Connell has publicly insisted that the only political office he's interested in seeking in 2010 is governor.
Was Brown using his column to tell O'Connell that he should lower his sights? Or was he using it to prop up a fallback position for his protege?
Brown notes that Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown is certain to run for governor in 2010 -- even if Sen. Dianne Feinstein were to decide she wanted the job. If Jerry Brown is in, and Feinstein is out (as is likely, now that she's taken over as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee), then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi will also likely get in. That would make it a very formidable field for O'Connell to crack without huge resources.
Willie Brown seemed to be using his column to send a message to his successor in the San Francisco mayor's office. If Newsom thinks he can use the lieutenant governor's position as his fallback position, Brown writes, he should think again -- because O'Connell would be hard to beat for that post.
There will be some interesting gamesmanship being played among the state's top Democrats in the months ahead over who is going to run for what office. It should be no surprise that Willie Brown is using his column to insert himself into the game.