Politics & Government

How Jerry Brown beat Meg Whitman's well-funded campaign

After all the TV ads and scripted attacks that hit voters this year, Californians on Tuesday picked a governor who has made a 40-year career out of improvisation and shooting from the hip.

Democratic Gov.-elect Jerry Brown reveled in his historic win Wednesday by offering the kind of blunt talk that distinguished him throughout the campaign from his on-message Republican rival Meg Whitman.

Standing on a coffee table in his Oakland headquarters, Brown told jokes, laid out his plans for the next few days and showed off the kind of irreverence that was his trademark during his first two terms as governor, from 1975 to 1983.

He said he will start work today by meeting with lawmakers and finance officials in Sacramento.

Brown also said he might take the unorthodox step of going without a chief of staff and reflected on an older relative "who's still alive at the age of 98, walking around and more coherent than many people I meet in my line of business."

Political observers said that plain-spoken approach made the difference in the governor's race by helping voters feel more comfortable with Brown.

Whitman, despite spending a record $141.6 million of her own money, never gave voters a sense of her human side, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo.

The final Field Poll showed Whitman's unfavorable rating jumping from 27 percent in March to 51 percent last month. Brown's unfavorable rating grew more slowly, from 37 percent to 47 percent, in that same period.

"Voters never warmed up to her," DiCamillo said. "And in the final analysis, they just never felt comfortable with her for whatever reason."

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