When it comes to style, Brown and New­som are very dif­fer­ent

The Mercury News Weekend - - OPINION - By Ge­orge Skel­ton Ge­orge Skel­ton is a Los An­ge­les Times colum­nist. © 2018, Chicago Tri­bune. Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency.

Although they’re both Democrats, the lead­er­ship styles of Govs. Gavin New­som and Jerry Brown are ut­terly dif­fer­ent. That has quickly be­come ev­i­dent.

New­som swings for the fences. Pre­de­ces­sor Brown played a cau­tious game, work­ing the per­cent­ages.

Rookie New­som doesn’t yet know his ca­pa­bil­i­ties and in­tends to test him­self. The vet­eran Brown — in his sec­ond gu­ber­na­to­rial ten­ure, any­way — be­lieved he knew his lim­its. He wouldn’t fight bat­tles he wasn’t con­fi­dent of win­ning.

In his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress Mon­day, New­som promised to be a “pru­dent ste­ward of tax­payer dol­lars,” but em­pha­sized: “Let me be clear: We will be bold. We will aim high and we will work like hell to get there.”

Con­trast that to Brown, who re­cently told the Sacramento Press Club: “The essence of lead­er­ship is know­ing when to hold and when to fold, when to move for­ward and when to stay still.”

New­som is im­pa­tient. His style is to make a big splash, as he fa­mously did soon after be­com­ing San Fran­cisco mayor in 2004. That bold ac­tion ul­ti­mately led to gay marriages be­com­ing le­gal across the coun­try

Brown care­fully picked his shots. If he didn’t have a good one, so be it.

One dif­fer­ence for the pub­lic is that Sacramento could be a lot more in­ter­est­ing with a freeswing­ing gov­er­nor try­ing to hit home runs.

The fact that one Demo­crat has re­placed an­other in the gov­er­nor’s of­fice is cited by some an­a­lysts as the rea­son this tran­si­tion was so dull com­pared to pre­vi­ous changes of power.

But I don’t think so. I think it’s pri­mar­ily be­cause po­lariz- ing Pres­i­dent Trump and the Demo­cratic takeover of the House have grabbed the pub­lic’s fo­cus.

But New­som’s rapid-fire ac­tions could start at­tract­ing at­ten­tion. It’s like he has a new toy that he can’t put down.

His early-child­hood pro­gram was leaked even be­fore he was sworn in.

On his first day as gov­er­nor, New­som pro­posed a sweep­ing ex­pan­sion of Medi- Cal, Cal­i­for­nia’s fed­er­ally sub­si­dized health care pro­gram for the poor. That was vir­tu­ally un­prece­dented. Gover­nors usu­ally spend their first day par­ty­ing, not en­gag­ing in gov­er­nance.

One piece of the Medi- Cal ex­pan­sion will be po­lit­i­cally touchy. New­som wants to ex­tend Medi- Cal cov­er­age to young adults up to age 26 who are liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally. Un­doc­u­mented chil­dren up to 18 al­ready are cov­ered. The ad­di­tional an­nual cost is es­ti­mated to be $260 mil­lion.

New­som pro­posed that all Cal­i­for­ni­ans be re­quired to have health in­sur­ance, an old Oba­macare man­date that Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans dumped. New­som also wants to sub­si­dize in­sur­ance for the mid­dle class. And he’d merge the state’s pre­scrip­tion drug buy­ing into a sin­gle pro­gram to pro­vide more bar­gain­ing power and cut costs. . Some of what New­som wants he can do him­self with ex­ec­u­tive orders. Other things re­quire leg­is­la­tion. Some stuff needs Trump’s and con­gres­sional ap­proval. Scratch that.

New­som char­ac­ter­ized his am­bi­tious pro­posal as an ini­tial step to­ward the uni­ver­sal health care sys­tem that he promised in the elec­tion cam­paign.

His sec­ond day on the job, New­som trav­eled into the Sierra to pro­pose spend­ing $305 mil­lion to ac­cel­er­ate the strip­ping of dy­ing trees and thick brush from wild­lands, ex­pand fire­fight­ing crews and mod­ern­ize 911 sys­tems.

Bravo. There’s no higher pri­or­ity for Cal­i­for­nia right now than prevent­ing and fight­ing wild­fires.

On Day 3, New­som an­nounced a crack­down on the DMV, which he as­serted “has been chron­i­cally mis­man­aged and failed in its fun­da­men­tal mis­sion to the state cus­tomers it serves. ... It’s time for a rein­ven­tion.” No kid­ding!

One smart thing New­som did was move his wife and four small chil­dren into the his­toric gov­er­nor’s man­sion in down­town Sacramento. It has housed 14 gover­nors since 1903, but Nancy Rea­gan fled the place in 1967, call­ing it a fire­trap. Gov. Jerry Brown up­dated the three­story, 30-room Vic­to­rian and re­oc­cu­pied it.

It’s close to the Capi­tol, is ma­jes­tic in­side and should pro­vide lots of mys­te­ri­ous romp­ing space for New­som’s kids, the youngest of whom stole the in­au­gu­ral show.

Two-year-old Dutch — suck­ing on a paci­fier and car­ry­ing a blankie — tod­dled on stage half­way through his fa­ther’s speech. New­som scooped him up, smiled and didn’t miss a beat read­ing off a teleprompter. Ev­ery­one got a good laugh.

It showed New­som to be a mul­ti­tasker, eas­ily jug­gling par­ent­ing with govern­ing and pol­i­tick­ing. It also high­lighted a gen­er­a­tional di­vide be­tween Brown, 80, and New­som, 51.

Brown’s style worked for him. He didn’t lose a real fight in his last two terms.

We won’t know about New­som for a while.

If a home run hit­ter con­nects, he’s a hero. If he strikes out often, he’s benched.

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