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Think you know Jerry Brown? We’re out to stump you with 16 questions about California’s exiting governor

Think you know Jerry Brown? We’re out to stump you with 16 questions about California’s exiting governor


During his first stint as governor, a California punk band wrote a song about a fictional President Jerry Brown using his “suede denim secret police” to round up the “uncool” and kill them with “organic poison gas.” What was the band?

Social Distortion

Dead Kennedys

The Vandals

Black Flag

Though Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra wrote the song “California Über Alles” as a dig at what he saw as the hippie-infused authoritarianism of Jerry Brown, he later said that he was “off base” about the governor.


Asked in 1975 why he hadn’t claimed tax deductions to minimize his own tax bill, Brown responded with:

“Non nobis solum nati sumus” (not for ourselves alone)

“You’ve got to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”

“Small is beautiful—and so are taxes!”

“It doesn’t turn me on.”

In 1975, Brown paid $10,239 in taxes (about $48,800 in today’s dollars). Asked why, he said that the idea of taking the time to itemize or hire a fancy accountant “didn’t turn him on.” “Your time is valuable also,” he explained.


During his first term, Brown famously demonstrated his frugality in which way?

By sleeping in a woven hemp hammock

By firing the governor’s official chef and subsisting only on rice and lentils

By shopping with coupons

By replacing the gubernatorial limo with a used Plymouth

In his first term, Brown replaced the Cadillac limo used by Gov. Ronald Reagan with a 1974 Plymouth. He also skipped the governor’s mansion, instead living out out of a small downtown apartment. He supposedly slept on a mattress on the floor…but not in a hammock.


Brown’s longtime aide, the French filmmaker Jacques Barzaghi, once described a Brown-led effort as “not disorganized…(it) transcends understanding.” What was he talking about?

Brown’s 1977 budget

The Brown family’s secret dog food recipe

Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign

California’s high speed rail project

Barzaghi, the black beret-wearing French director who served as Brown’s mysterious right-hand man for years, was referring to the governor’s foundering 1992 presidential bid. According to a New York Times profile from that year, Barzaghi was known for his "gnomic, vaguely existential utterances.” Another example: after touring a state prison he was asked what he thought. His reply, supposedly: “We are all prisoners.”


At the governor’s prayer breakfast in 1976, Gov. Brown broke with tradition. He invited a Sufi choir to sing, had an anthropologist give the sermon, and did away with the customary eggs and bacon. What did he serve instead?


yogurt, pineapple, prunes and cheese

nothing (he was fasting)

granola and soy milk

Fruit and yogurt might seem like a healthy breakfast staple now—if not pineapples and prunes precisely—but it was a little unusual in 1976. While peyote was not served, the anthropologist Gregory Bateson did apparently discuss the subject while giving that morning’s secular sermon.


As a public figure, which international trip has Brown not gone on?

To Japan, to study Zen buddhism

To India, to work with Mother Teresa

To Italy to visit the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits

To East Africa to learn about environmental policy with singer Linda Ronstadt

Though Brown has traveled to the Vatican, he never made it to the Church of the Gesù, despite his Jesuit training.


Which position has Jerry Brown not held in California?

Secretary of State

Chairman of the California Democratic Party

Attorney General

Mayor of Berkeley

Brown was mayor of Oakland between 1999 and 2007, but never the city’s northern neighbor Berkeley.


For his 1980 presidential campaign, Brown tapped the film director Francis Ford Coppola to produce a live, multimedia half-hour campaign speech to be broadcast across the state of Wisconsin. Unfortunately for Brown, Coppola was far outside his Oscar-winner comfort zone. How did CBS political reporter Bernie Goldberg describe the event the following day?

“It went over like a horse head in a bed.”

“Jerry Brown’s Apocalypse Right Now.”

“The horror! The horror!”

“An offer that Brown should have refused.”

This bit of trivia comes straight from the memory archive of Dan Walters of CALmatters: “It was billed as the shape of things to come,” Goldberg concluded after showing scenes from the botched broadcast, “but it was more like Jerry Brown’s apocalypse right now.”


In a gubernatorial election debate in 2010, Brown—who has run for president three times—was asked how voters could be sure he wouldn’t make one last attempt at the Oval Office. Brown insisted that his presidential aspirations were over and gave what reason?

His age

The carbon emissions associated with a national campaign

His respect for then-President Barack Obama

His dog

“Hell, if I was younger, you know I'd be running again,” he said.


Brown plans to retire to his homestead in Colusa County. What hobby has he taken up on the ranch?

Making olive oil

River rafting

Beer brewing

Drone piloting

“I’ve just produced my first batch of hand-picked, organic olive oil and it’s actually pretty good,” he told KQED's Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos. He said that he might consider growing figs next.


“This isn’t for me!” Brown told a group of state Senators, imploring them to support a bill last year. “I’m going to be dead. This is for you!” What legislation was he referring to?

The high-speed rail project

The Delta twin tunnels project

Renewal of the state's cap-and-trade program

Revising the state's public pension system

When California’s central climate change initiative was up for renewal, Brown took the unusual step of pleading directly with legislators to keep cap and trade alive. He accepted a few compromises along the way, but market for carbon emission permits is still running—and will be through 2030.


Brown was living in Laurel Canyon when what grisly crime took place within a block of his home?

The “Manson Family” murders of Sharon Tate and four others

The murder of Playboy model Dorothy Stratten

The “Wonderland murders” of four acquaintances of porn star John Holmes

The murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, which led to the arrest of O.J. Simpson

Brown was living on Wonderland Avenue just a few houses down from the eponymous 1981 murder scene. Though the narrow road only spans one mile through the hills above Hollywood, it was—and remains—an address to some of the state’s most famous names.


In a high profile debate, a prominent politician said this to Brown: "I don't care what you say about me. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You’re not worthy of being on the same platform as my wife." Who was that politician?

Jimmy Carter in 1976 presidential race

Pete Wilson in the 1982 U.S. Senate race

Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race

Neel Kashkari in the 2014 gubernatorial race

During a televised debate in the spring of 1992, Brown referenced a Washington Post article that pointed to work that Hillary Clinton’s law firm had done for the state of Arkansas while her husband was governor of the state. Brown characterized this as his opponent “funneling money to his wife's law firm.”


In 1978, California voters re-elected Jerry Brown but put Republican Mike Curb in the position of lieutenant governor. The two famously clashed in early 1979 when Curb took advantage of the fact that Brown was out of state and did what?

Placed a Reagan appointed judge on the California Court of Appeal

Temporarily moved the governor’s mansion to Palm Springs

Issued a revised budget full of Republican fiscal priorities

Gave a four-hour "State of the State" speech excoriating Brown

Curb gave a vacant judicial job to Armand Arabian. Brown nixed the appointment upon his return to the state and sued Curb for overstepping. The California Supreme Court ultimately sided with Curb, arguing that he was well within his constitutional rights as acting-governor in Brown’s absence. Arabian was ultimately appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1992.


Which of these slogans was not used by Gov. Brown on the campaign trail?

A president who owes no favors favors the nation

Protect the earth, serve the people, explore the universe

Go with the flow

Take back America

“Hey! Ho! Go with the flow!” was the fictional campaign chant that Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau attributed to Brown’s supporters.


At various times Brown called it a “consumer fraud” and a “trap,” but also “the strongest expression of the democratic process in a decade” and “the mandate of the people.” What was he referring to?

Proposition 13 (1978), which dramatically reduced property tax rates

Proposition 8 (2008), the state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage

Proposition 64 (2016), which legalized recreational marijuana

Proposition 6 (2018), which would have repealed a recent increase in the gas tax

Despite opposing it in the lead up to the 1978 June election, one Prop. 13 passed, slashing government revenue across the state, Brown shifted gears and labeled himself (perhaps jokingly) a “born again tax cutter.” Roger Rapoport, who wrote California Dreaming, a political overview of both governors Brown, called Jerry’s against it-then-for it switch on the tax measure “one of the state’s great flip-flops.”

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