Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer

Thursday, February 25, 2010

As California’s two GOP gubernatorial candidates rushed in recent days from NASCAR races to town hall meetings, Attorney General Jerry Brown – the Democrats’ lone hope for governor this year – has been so low-key and out of the limelight that Republicans have begun a daily chant: “Where’s Jerry?”

The California Republican Party’s caustic jabs hit the former two-term governor for being MIA while others are grabbing the campaign headlines – even Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, has jumped into the race.

In their full-throated campaign, Republicans have humorously seized on a theme – joking this week that even officials at Toyota have come forward to speak to the public while the 71-year-old Brown has been silent.

“One would think if Jerry Brown were interested in leading California at a time of severe economic distress, he might show some interest in his own campaign,” state Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said.

Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford chuckled at the GOP approach. Brown, who has an exploratory campaign for governor, has until March 12 to formally declare his candidacy.

Until then, Clifford said, “someone who is interested in ‘Where’s Jerry?’ should contact the AG’s office and run down the long list of criminal and consumer protection cases that Jerry is in charge of. Where’s Jerry? He’s doing the business of the people of California.”

Tucker Bounds, spokesman for former eBay CEO and GOP gubernatorial contender Meg Whitman, said his candidate has held “more than 300 campaign events” to discuss issues such as cutting spending and fixing education.

On Saturday, she waved the green flag at a NASCAR race in Fontana (San Bernardino County), where she took good-natured ribbing for wearing a Burberry coat to the blue-collar event.

GOP challenger Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner rode in the pace car at the Fontana track on Sunday, while Brown declined an invitation to the popular race weekend.

“Jerry Brown has articulated nothing about what his intentions would be as governor,” Bounds said, while “relying on a consortium of consultants to provide cover fire for his erratic campaign effort.”
Similar strategies

Whitman has been criticized for shielding herself from reporters’ questions and choosing staged events, and Brown’s strategy is about the same. That leaves him open to criticism for not spelling out a vision for the troubled state.

While Brown’s office churns out press releases, he has dramatically cut back on media contacts since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom dropped out of the race in October. Brown’s 2010 Web site covers his rich history but offers little about his public appearances or where he stands on issues.

Insiders say Brown’s camp – including his wife, Anne Gust, who is charged with hiring new staffers – is ramping up and is furiously preparing position papers.

At the same time, Republicans have seized on Brown, panning his keynote speech last week to the Sierra Club in San Francisco, which progressive bloggers described as unprepared, unfocused and even disastrous.

“It would seem that when Jerry Brown gets around to launching his campaign, he’ll need to hire a translator,” Nehring said. “Even Democrats have a hard time following just what it is he’s saying.”
Time to ‘reframe’

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