SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown visited the Sacramento Press Club Tuesday, using the event to reflect on his five decades of public service, his accomplishments in the Golden State’s government, and the future of political discourse in the United States.
The event billed as Brown’s “exit interview” was held at Sacramento’s Masonic Temple and packed with reporters and public affairs officials who came to hear the veteran politician speak. Journalist and author Miriam Pawel, who recently wrote a biography on the Brown family, and former Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton interviewed the governor in front of hundreds for more than an hour, ending with a series of questions from journalists.
Now 80, Brown began his first term as governor in 1974 at age 36, and was elected again in 2011 for two more terms. Brown tried unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in 1982, and ran for president three times – joking to the crowd that it was “one time too many.”
During the interview, Brown called this past Friday’s decision by a federal judge in Texas to strike down the Affordable Care Act just "a bump in the road." He said Republicans will face disastrous electoral consequences if the ruling holds and President Barack Obama’s signature health care law ends.
"It will build such a backlash that the Democrats will not only overtake the Senate, they'll win the presidency and they'll win enough momentum, particularly on the issue of health care, it will be replaced with something even better," Brown, a Democrat, said.
He also defended his plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the plan to build a project officially known as California WaterFix but dubbed “the delta tunnels” that if completed will consist of two massive waterways under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to deliver water to Southern California.
“The more you do, the more people are empowered to demand you do even more,” Brown said. Both projects have attracted controversy and multiple lawsuits, however, and neither will be completed before Brown leaves office.
“A real leader can push it over the finish line,” Brown said, adding he thought both projects would ultimately be built.
The event featured a silent auction of Jerry Brown memorabilia, including signed posters, books and pictures, which raised more than $6,600 for the Sacramento Press Club scholarship program.
Brown plans to move to a ranch in Colusa County with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, when his term ends Jan. 7.