Lateral Movement

Nearly seven years ago, Governing ran a cover story about Oakland, noting that the city was undergoing a unique experiment in shared power between the ...
by | November 3, 2006

Jerrybrown Nearly seven years ago, Governing ran a cover story about Oakland, noting that the city was undergoing a unique experiment in shared power between the mayor and the city manager. It's worth noting that both those men are running for very different offices next week.

Jerry Brown, who is term limited as mayor, is favored to win his race for state attorney general. Brown, of course, burst onto the political scene more than 30 years ago as governor of California, succeeding Ronald Reagan.

Brown lost his bid for the U.S. Senate to Pete Wilson in 1982 and since then has knocked around quite a bit. He ran the state Democratic Party in 1990 and was the last Democrat standing against Bill Clinton in the 1992 primaries. (It was his third run for the presidnency.)

He moved to Oakland in time to become mayor. His run for attorney general is just one among many switches in the great game of musical chairs term-limited politicians are playing in California this year. (More than two dozen legislators and statewide officials have run for different office.)

Attorneys general have become big players in recent years, winning billion-dollar settlements and changing the regulatory landscape. With Mississippi's Mike Moore (the lead AG in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s) retired and New York's Eliot Spitzer about to become governor, Brown could conceivably take a leadership role in this area that will have national significance. But that certainly remains to be seen.

What about his old city manager, Robert Bobb? Bobb ran afoul of Brown and his political guru a couple of years ago, but ended up as the city administrator here in Washington. By the time he came on board, Mayor Anthony Williams had made the city much less of a basket case.

D.C. schools remain a mess, and Bobb is running for chair of the board of education. That would be a thankless position under any circumstances, but may soon become even less rewarding. Incoming Mayor Adrian Fenty wants to take control of the schools, a la Bloomberg and other big city mayors. At best, Bobb will be spending much of his time and energy trying to prevent that from happening.

If it does happen, Bobb, who has worked in several cities from coast to coast, may find himself looking, like his old boss, for yet another perch.