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Smaller Pond

Jerry Brown is back with a downsized ambition

By David S. Jackson/San Francisco

TIME magazine

(TIME, June 8) -- Oakland has always lived in the shadow of its glittery sister city across the bay, and that went for its politicians too. But this week's mayoral primary could change that. Former California Governor Edmund G. ("Jerry") Brown Jr. is far ahead of his opponents--46% support among registered voters, vs. single digits for all the others. If he gets 50%, there will be no need for a runoff.

Such a victory would mark an unconventional, if modest, political comeback for Brown, now 60. In 1995, after three failed bids for the presidency, he sold his mansion in San Francisco's posh Pacific Heights and moved across the bay to Oakland's gritty waterfront. There he started up We the People, a nonprofit community center for grass-roots activism, and hectored his old rival Bill Clinton and other politicians on a national radio call-in show. Last fall, to the horror of other would-be mayors, he announced his candidacy.

Brown had instant name recognition, but also voters liked his support for charter schools, his vow to revive the city's moribund downtown and his "zero tolerance" of crime. "I want people to feel safer," he says. "That's key to people moving here and staying here." Brown has visited nearly 100 neighborhood groups and won endorsements from the Sierra Club to the United Farm Workers.

Being mayor of the nation's 44th largest city may seem small consolation for someone who once aspired to the White House, but Brown doesn't see it that way. "Oakland is a microcosm of the unfinished American agenda," he told TIME. "The challenges here are the challenges any political leader in America faces. This is a place where I can make an impact." At last.

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: June 8, 1998

Fight To The Finish
The Conscience Of A Curmudgeon
Kinder, Gentler--And In The Lead
Smaller Pond
The Man Behind Prop. 227
The Notebook: Who Moves To The U.N.?

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