By Dan Morain, Senior editor
dmorain@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1E

If you’re a Democrat running for a lesser office, don’t bother asking what Jerry Brown can do for you.

Instead, ask what you can do for Brown. Democratic candidates have found out that in this campaign, it’s everyone for themselves.

Brown is a penurious politician who has never seen the point of giving money to other candidates or helping them raise money. In this race, however, he is displaying his selfish side, failing to make gestures that engender loyalty, energize party activists and gin up the volunteers on whom he must rely if he hopes to win on Nov. 2.

It’s very different on the Republican side of the ballot.

Unlike Democrats, Republican candidates see reason to hope that some of Meg Whitman’s mega-millions, or at least her rich friends’ money, will flow their way and float their boats.

Whitman is running as if Republicans make up a ticket, regularly appearing with candidates for other statewide offices including Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, running for attorney general, and Sen. Tony Strickland, running for controller.

“She has made it clear that she doesn’t want to go to Sacramento alone,” said Bill Bloomfield, a major Southern California donor to Republicans nationally who is giving to Whitman, the California Republican Party, Maldonado and Strickland.

Whitman is paying particular attention to Strickland. She has donated $6,500 to the Ventura County Republican and headlined fundraisers for him in San Diego, Orange County and San Francisco. Importantly, she is telling her donors that she wants Strickland to be part of her team.

Strickland had a much lonelier time four years ago when he first ran for controller and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood atop the Republican ticket. The governor did nothing to help, and Strickland lost to John Chiang by almost 900,000 votes.

Now, Schwarzenegger is attempting to pressure Democratic lawmakers into bending to his budget demands and is taking aim at state workers by directing that Chiang pay them the minimum wage.

Chiang, a Democrat whose campaign is funded heavily by public employee unions, responds by explaining that the state computer system simply cannot accommodate such a demand.

“Arnold says ‘Up,’ and the Controller says ‘Down,’ ” Strickland said. “Meg is learning from Arnold’s experience. To govern, you need friends.”

The conventional wisdom is that Brown won the summer. Despite Whitman’s massive spending, polls show she and Brown are tied. Brown should win the summer and the fall, too. This is a blue state with 2.3 million more Democrats than Republicans. But there are warning signs that Brown ought to heed.

“Where is the inspiration going to come from for Democrats to troop to the polls? That’s what I worry about,” asked Democratic strategist Garry South, highly critical of Brown’s campaign. “The Democratic electorate in California is dispirited and unenthusiastic, and that has turnout implications for November.”

In addition to spending $104 million of her own money on her quest to become governor, Whitman is raising large sums from individuals and corporations – far more than Brown.

Since July 1, Whitman has raised $2.35 million in chunks of $1,000 or more, compared to Brown’s $1.33 million. Tellingly, sophisticated players with big stakes in who serves as California governor are giving heavily to Whitman.

Two tribes with large casinos, the Pala band in San Diego County and the Paskenta band near Corning, gave Whitman maximum donations of $25,900 each this month. Brown had hoped to lock up donations from casino tribes.

Brown is raising money for the California Democratic Party. That will help him and other Democratic candidates. The Democratic Party, which long has outraised the California Republican Party, had $8.4 million in the bank at the end of July, almost quadruple the GOP’s sum.

But Whitman lately has devoted more of her time to raising money for the California Republican Party. The state GOP has outraised Democrats so far this month, $955,000 to $580,000.

Brown won’t start spending his $25 million or so on television ads until Labor Day. That makes sense. He’d run out of money if he started buying air time sooner.

“All things will happen in due course,” Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford said, noting that Brown won’t start campaigning visibly until Labor Day weekend. “Jerry’s ability to see how the race plays out has proven to be accurate time and time again.”

Even when Brown starts spending, Whitman will outspend him, making it all the more important that he have friends. But winning over new friends takes effort – and he doesn’t seem to be trying.

Brown didn’t take the time to take the ride from his Oakland loft over Highway 17 to help former Democratic Assemblyman John Laird in his race against Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee for a key state Senate seat along the Central Coast.

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