The Ticket: Willie Brown Reflects on Legacy in California

The year was 1964.

The Beatles dominated the charts, Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House, Pat Brown was the governor of California and, that same year, a young lawyer in San Francisco named Willie Brown was elected to the state Assembly.

Brown, a Democrat, was one of a handful of black legislators at the time.

A driven and outspoken showman, Brown rose through the ranks and was described as one of the most powerful state lawmakers in the country.

He was Assembly Speaker for 15 years -- the longest in state history.

After leaving the Capitol, he was elected mayor of San Francisco.

Although no longer in office, Brown is still very much involved in California politics. True to form, he has thoughts and doesn’t shy away from sharing them.

At the age of 85, he shows no sign of slowing down. He even says he's in his office seven days a week.

"I do something seven days a week in the world of law practice, in the world of advising my politicians, in the world of communicating with the media," Brown said. "I don’t have any responsibility for the homeless, for the druggies, for crime. I have done my bit there and now I can reflect on others."

Which is exactly what he did speaking to FOX40, starting with the person who succeeded him as mayor — Gov. Gavin Newson.

"I think he has done extremely well. He inherited a state in which Jerry Brown was considered an icon in every sense of the word," he said.

Newsom also inherited a sizable multi-million dollar surplus from his predecessor, but Brown doesn’t see that as a positive.

"Jerry Brown had left lots of things undone," Brown told FOX40. "He had been very careful to make sure that he left a considerable amount of money in the account, so to speak, and that spoke well with people. But Newsom had to address the issue and is addressing the issue because that account not utilized has created a lot of problems."

He recognizes those problems include homelessness and housing but thinks there should be another primary focus.

"I think public education constitutes the foundation for continuation of what California has become for the world, the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. You’ve got to have talented people to drive that engine," Brown said.

And no matter the issue, Brown says Democrats have the power to fix it.

"With their supermajorities in both houses and their control in the statewide offices, there should not be any discussion about whether or not they will -- they should," Brown said.

The balance of power during his reign as Assembly Speaker was much different than now. He was often known to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans.

The party has since declined at the Capitol but Brown doesn't think it’s completely over for the GOP in California.

"In this state, I don’t think the party is dead. No party is permanently dead. I think at some point there will be a resurrection, so to speak," he said. "But it may not be in my lifetime."

Brown also talked about the race for president in 2020.

"We should not be looking just for the best democratic candidate, we ought to be looking for somebody who for sure can beat Trump," he said.

Brown believes that candidate is fellow Californian Kamala Harris, with whom he had a personal relationship.

"She is a woman and America has got to embrace a woman leader at some point and the Democrats have got to lead that," Brown said.

In his more than five decades in politics is there a part of the job Brown feels he missed out on?

"I don’t think that there’d be any reason to think that maybe I should have done something else," Brown said. "I loved doing the things that I’ve done and I love that fact that I'm still alive."

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