The Governor’s Muse


In Wednesday’s New York Times


“SACRAMENTO — Anyone who spends time with Gov. Jerry Brown is familiar with his penchant for referring to philosophers, Latin or an obscure tome he has recently read, often in the same sentence. A speaker who uses what he deems an imprecise word should be prepared to listen to a soliloquy on its meaning.

Do not expect his wife to do the same.

Anne Gust Brown, petite and polished, speaks with the directness of someone who has little patience for theoretical colloquiums. She is the first person to whom advisers turn if they need to anticipate the long list of questions the governor is likely to pepper them with. After more than 20 years as his partner — and nearly a decade as his top aide — she is one of the few people who can predict his often unpredictable thinking. And she is the one most likely to tell the governor it is time to end the Socratic seminar and make a decision.

“I would say sometimes he’s exhausting,” Ms. Gust Brown said in a courtyard just outside the governor’s office. “Sometimes I have to foist him onto other people and say, you go talk to someone else about that, because he has a sort of insatiable appetite about these things.”

Her role in the past few years has evolved. During budget negotiations in 2011, Ms. Gust Brown often sat in meetings with legislators, bristling when she believed they were not showing her husband enough respect. These days, such meetings are left to other aides.

Still, she has become deeply involved on many of the most vexing issues facing the governor: the state budget gap and the ensuing campaign to raise taxes, as well as the continuing demands from the federal courts to overhaul the state prisons. As the governor sorted through hundreds of bills last month, Ms. Gust Brown was the one helping him to decide whether he would veto some gun control measures (he did), approve an expansion of abortion rights (he did) or allow non-citizens to serve on juries (he did not).”

Many years have elapsed between the Governor’s second and third terms. He held the positions of State Attorney General and Mayor of Oakland during this time. He was a bachelor during his first two terms and was considered by many to live the life of a free spirit. During that time, he picked up the moniker “Captain Moonbeam”, and probably deserved it. But he has matured and was married to Anne Gust in 2005, with his long-time friend Senator Diane Feinstein officiating. Anne has shown herself to be a trusted and valued aide, rather than a First Lady.

The Governor, who by many was considered to be a “flake”, has taken legislation and his role as governor a lot more seriously now than he did in his earlier life. Many people around him attribute his “more responsible” behavior to the woman beside him 24/7. As an attorney, she certainly lives a more disciplined life than he ever did, and her more restrained lifestyle appears to have rubbed off on him. He isn’t the cavalier governor now that he was 30 years ago. Instead, he has taken the guidance his wife offers and lives his life accordingly.

He certainly appears to deserve the respect he enjoys from both democrats and republicans, in California and outside. As a New Yorker, I can assure you that when he was governor a lifetime ago, he was a very weird man who was more concerned with his celebrity than the office he held. Today, he is a new man, different than his Republican predecessor in personality and in his approach to his office. And for that, we can thank Mrs Brown. She has tempered him to approach his job with an unusual aplomb and grace.

The residents of California, seem to really like the new and improved governor. And they should thank Mrs Brown for her “exhausting” efforts. They have paid their dues as he has paid his. And through it all, Anne Gust Brown has quietly done so much to make the Governor be the man we now see running the most populous state with a great deal more focus than he did the last time. She is more to him than a wife, the First Lady of California or just another trusted aide.


She is his Muse, lighting the way for him to be potentially a great governor if he so chooses. And California is better off for it.
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