Why, at age 68, does Oakland, Ca., Mayor Jerry Brown, California’s former governor, want to be state attorney general? The official answer, says the San Francisco Chronicle, is that Brown wants a bigger bully pulpit, along with 1,000 prosecutors to fight crime, a topic he has become familiar with as Oakland’s mayor since 1998. The more complicated answer is that Edmund G. Brown, the scion of the state’s best-known political family, still loves politics and public policy and has no desire to give it up, even at an age when most Americans are retiring.
Crime has taken more of Brown’s energy than any other in the past eight years. His successes and failures fighting crime may be key to how voters judge him as he seeks to become the state’s top cop. “If you say ‘Oakland’ to people around the state, you get this image of crime,” said Michael Semler, a political science professor at Cal State Sacramento. “No matter how much it has changed in the past eight years, Oakland is still known for crime.” Oakland’s crime rate has dropped on Brown’s watch but homicide increased 50 percent in 2002 and has stayed high ever since — despite several policing schemes.