Although Jerry Brown comes from a political family, he has an unusual background for a politician, even in California, and is considered an oddity in some corners. The son of longtime California public figures Pat Brown, he originally didn't plan to be a public official. After attending public schools, he planned on entering the priesthood, and became a Jesuit in 1958, the year his father was elected Governor by a record-breaking margin. However, this life didn't suit him and he left the order in 1960 to become a lawyer, which he did after graduating from Yale Law School in 1964. He worked for some prestigious law firms during the 1960's. His family suffered a setback when his father was soundly defeated for reelection in 1966 by retired actor/businessman Ronald Reagan. In 1970, he was entered public life when he ran successfully for Secretary of State. In that office, he was highly critical of then-President Richard Nixon. He was also a stickler for following state election law regulations, which annoyed many in his own party as well as Republicans. He had planned on challenging Reagan in 1974 to avenge his father's defeat, but Reagan didn't seek reelection that year, so that he could lay the groundwork for a Presidential bid in 1976. Brown was the Democratic Party's nominee for Governor that year and was expected to win by a landslide. However, his Republican opponent, then-state Controller Houston Flourney, turned out to be a stronger for than expected, and on election day, Brown just barely won in the state's closest Governor's race in decades. As Governor, Brown was controversial. He helped form the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and staffed it with liberals who were charged with being biased against farmers and landowners and being in the pocket of labor activist Cesar Chavez, who was unpopular in rural California at the time. He also stirred up controversy when he appointed his personal friend and aide, Rose Bird, as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, even though she had never been a judge before. He also won the attention of the tabloids by dating popular singer Linda Ronstadt. In 1976, he wasn't helped when a ballot initiative he supported, allowing farm workers to organize on farmers' land, lost by a landslide and contributed to Jimmy Carter narrowly losing the state to Gerald Ford in the Presidential election that year. It was uncertain whether Brown would win reelection in 1978, and he was opposed by state Attorney General Evelle Younger, a former Los Angeles County District Attorney who had overseen the murder conviction of Charles Manson by Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi in 1969. However, Younger took an extended vacation to Hawaii during the summer, and Brown took advantage of Younger's absence to take control of the campaign and move into a wide lead. On election day, Brown won by 1.3 million votes, breaking the record his father set in 1958. However, his victory was tempered by the fact that his Lieutenant Governor was unseated by entertainment executive Mike Curb, a fierce critic, and that his protégé Rose Bird was nearly removed from the Court amid ethics charges. Things went downhill for him, and in 1980, his longtime adversary, Ronald Reagan, was elected President by a decisive margin. In 1982, Brown ran for the U.S. Senate, but had become widely unpopular by then. In spite of an inept campaign by his opponent, San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson, he was defeated in an otherwise good year for his party. Afterwards, he left the country for a while, lecturing in several Asian nations. In 1986, he received more bad news when three state Supreme Court Justices he had appointed, including Rose Bird, were removed from the Court by landslide margins. He returned to California in 1989 and became state Democratic Chairman, but kept a low profile. In 1992, disturbed by the growing influence of big money in politics, he launched an improbable campaign for President. He had little establishment support even in his home state, but campaigned with vigor. In spite of limited financial resources, he won primaries in Maine, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, Utah and Nevada. He was the first to attack Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton on possible conflict-of-interest in a questionable land deal that became known as The Whitewater Scandal, which would haunt Clinton throughout his whole Presidency. Clinton won both the nomination and general election. He wasn't offered a job in the Clinton administration, which suited him as he regarded both Bill Clinton and his controversial wife Hillary Clinton as shady and opportunistic. After practicing law, he returned to elective office when, against expectations, he ran for Mayor of Oakland, a moribund city in the eastern San Fransisco bay area, as a reformer and won by a landslide. In office, he pushed priorities that differed from those he had earlier in his career: vigorously fighting crime, bringing business downtown, and encouraging charter schools, which alienated some liberals. He achieved success in all of those endeavors and was reelected in 2002 by an even larger margin. In 2006, he made his most improbable comeback to date. He ran for state Attorney General, even though he had been skeptical of law enforcement and friendly to trial lawyers during most of his career and had appointed judges widely condemned as overly lenient on criminal defendants. In spite of that, he won his party's nomination easily and defeated a credible opponent in the general election by a wide margin. He will assume office in January of 2007.
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