Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 | 7:06 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Jerry Brown formally launched his re-election campaign Thursday, stepping into a contest that the former three-time presidential candidate is expected to dominate.
The announcement was understated — a written statement posted on his website, with an accompanying tweet — in keeping with Brown's reputation for shoestring-style politicking. The 75-year-old Democrat said he had filed required paperwork to seek the office and was ready to deal with a raft of pressing issues, from a potentially devastating drought to a pension system mired in long-term debt.
"At this stage of my life, I can say without any hesitation that I am prepared and excited to tackle these challenges," said Brown, already the longest-serving governor in California history. "There is nothing I would rather do."
The announcement was expected. Brown has been stockpiling campaign cash for months — he has nearly $17 million for the race, far more than any of his little-known Republican rivals.
He enters the contest with significant advantages — his party holds a 2.6 million voter edge over Republicans, and Democrats control every statewide office. You'd have to go back a generation to find a Republican presidential candidate who carried the state, George H.W. Bush in 1988.
After winning voter support for a tax increase, Brown has been credited with easing the state's long-running budget mess, at least for now. Recent statewide polling found most Democrats and independents approve of the job he has been doing, a key measure in a state where GOP registration has dipped below 30 percent.
But California is troubled by a wide range of problems: cratered freeways that are strangled with traffic, alarming dropout rates at many schools, a withering middle class, and illegal immigration. Brown's signature project, a $68 billion high-speed rail line, has lost public favor and faces an uncertain future.
"Californians can't afford another four years of Gov. Brown's failed leadership," former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, one of Brown's Republican rivals, said in a statement.
State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, also wants Brown's job.
In a trendsetting state, Brown has proven a durable fixture. The son of a former governor, he traces his political career to the 1960s and served his first stint as governor from 1975 to 1983. Along the way, he's been state attorney general and mayor of Oakland. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992. He won his third term as governor in 2010.
"Millions of our families are struggling and too many men and women cannot find work or the living wages they deserve," Brown said in his statement. "I won't make everyone happy every time but I will listen and I will seek to find the best and fairest way forward."
Ventura County Republican Chairman Mike Osborn said the GOP has a deep reservoir of issues to raise with voters, from high taxes to heavy government regulation.
It's possible other candidates might join the race, he added. A Republican can oust Brown, Osborn predicted, "we just have to generate excitement."