On politics in the Golden State
March 9, 2011 | 4:10 pm

The California Republican Party has invited a surprise guest to its biannual convention in Sacramento next weekend: Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

State party Chairman Ron Nehring on Wednesday invited Brown to debate Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, about the governor’s budget proposal, which includes deep cuts to services and renewed taxes to address a massive deficit.

“I know you’re a fierce debater and welcome a challenge,” Nehring wrote. “In the interest of promoting a vigorous debate on the subject of taxes, spending, and the role of government, I am inviting you and Mr. Norquist to debate these issues at the upcoming California Republican Party State Convention, conveniently located just one block from your office, on Saturday, March 19.”

The offer echoes one Brown made to Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner before the Republican primary last year.

Norquist has already agreed to participate, Nehring said.

“As governor we appreciate that you’ve regularly engaged Republican leaders -– a phenomenon some of our Republican legislators are not used to from the governor’s office,” he concluded. “In that spirit I hope you accept this offer.”

Norquist became part of the budget debate by warning Republican legislators who signed his no-tax-increase pledge — a tradition among GOP candidates — that they would be in violation if they supported Brown’s budget proposal, which would put tax extensions on the June ballot. Brown responded in recent days by calling Norquist’s actions “pathetic” and “highly undemocratic.”

Brown’s spokesman criticized Norquist as unknowledgeable, said Brown was too busy to debate and offered up an alternative -– First Dog Sutter Brown, a corgi recently adopted by Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown.

“Last time I checked, Grover Norquist didn’t know the difference between Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown -– he blamed Gov. Brown last week for signing a collective bargaining bill that was actually signed by Gov. Reagan in 1968,” said spokesman Gil Duran.

“As we all know, the governor is very focused right now on getting a balanced budget solution and doesn’t really have time for fun and games,” he added.

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