While the state Republican and Democratic parties have opposed the voter-approved open primary measure Proposition 14, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown expressed support Tuesday for the idea, saying it could help break partisan gridlock paralyzing Sacramento.
When asked by The Bee in March about the initiative, Brown refused to take a position.
Brown was in Mountain View on Tuesday to announce an eight-point plan for investing in renewable energy technology, which he says will create more than half a million green jobs. He opened his remarks to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group by lamenting polarizing partisan politics. He then segued into Proposition 14, which would advance the primary's top two vote-getters to the general election, regardless of their party affiliations.
"With the recent enactment of this open primary, that may hold some promise so that people can converge in a more moderate perspective," Brown said. "People can run and appeal to voters from the other party. ... You'd get two members from the same party where you would actually get more choice than you might otherwise get if you have parties as gatekeepers as they are now.
"This has the possibility of opening that up, and therefore it gives me some optimism."
Brown warned, however: "Most of the history of reform is one of unintended consequences."
The candidate also voiced his support, albeit with tongue in cheek, for the landmark 1978 voter-approved Proposition 13, which limited the growth of property taxes, among other actions. As governor, Brown had opposed the initiative but then turned into a supporter after voters approved it.
"My thoughts on Prop. 13, look, next to the 10 commandments and the Bill of Rights, I can't think of a better expression of human wisdom," Brown said.
The candidate had been talking about defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner, whom Whitman had accused of undermining Proposition 13 because he had supported a 2000 voter initiative that lowered the vote threshold to pass school bonds.
"I just look at the poor fellow, Mr. Poizner," Brown said. "Here's this guy, sincere guy, he really is, I don't know if he knows what hit him, with all these ads, here's a guy who was asked by Pete Wilson, the chairman of the Whitman campaign, would he help with Proposition 39, which would lower the two-thirds for school bonds to 55 percent."
Brown added later, "What does the ad say: Poizner destroying Prop. 13 and raising taxes $23 billion. So don't expect anything like that from me. Mum's the word."
Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei later criticized Brown for not offering enough policy details in his talk to the business group, highlighting a comment Brown made when asked about transportation funding.
Brown had answered, "How do you do things without any money? Very difficult, but I have a plan. I'll tell you after the election," sparking laughter from the crowd.
Brown then said he supported "pay as you go" and not borrowing money to pay for projects.
Pompei said in a written statement: "Governor Brown's outright refusal to provide any specifics to voters continued today. In a revealing moment at a Silicon Valley event this morning, Governor Jerry Brown openly mocked the idea of sharing specifics with voters about how he would address government spending until after Election Day. This election and this issue are far too important for Governor Brown to continue to dodge questions, avoid specifics, and shirk responsibility. Simply put: California voters deserve more."
Sterling Clifford of the Brown campaign responded, "Perhaps the Whitman staffer assigned to stalk Jerry should have picked up a copy of Jerry's clean energy jobs plan on the way out before his boss goes on an uninformed twitter rant."
Brown met with reporters later in which he was asked about his comments comparing Whitman's media strategy to that of Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels. The remarks were reported by a journalist who had bumped into Brown while jogging.
"I talked to people of the Holocaust center, and they completely understand," Brown said. "I will tell you this, jogging in the hills with sweaty strangers will no longer result in conversations. Mum's the word."
UPDATE 2:01 p.m. with Sterling Clifford's comment.
Photo: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown meets audience members after a talk to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group on June 15, 2010, in Mountain View, Calif. (Jack Chang/Sacramento Bee)