Bay Area Wins a Round

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

The new year in Sacramento marks a new era, and not just as the end of the weird experiment in celebrity-driven politics that was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The once and apparently future actor had worn out his welcome with just about everybody by the time he snuffed out his stogie and turned off the lights.

The new governor, Jerry Brown, represents almost the perfect flip side of the Arnold story arc.

Brown's act had burned out with most Californians before he left office in 1983. But his personal reinvention has been so thorough, and so interesting, that for most he begins with a clean slate.

There's more here, though, than the passing of power from unorthodox Republican to unpredictable Democrat.

The change in Sacramento also underlines the shift of Los Angeles and Southern California to second-tier status in state politics.

Schwarzenegger at least lived here, in Brentwood. He was often seen around town, cruising PCH on his motorcycle or riding bikes with Maria Shriver and the kids.

I was camped one afternoon at a Starbucks in Santa Monica when a pair of black SUV's stopped outside. The governor rushed in for a caffeine fix.

That likely won't happen with Brown.

The last time he was governor, he hung out… somewhat famously… in the Hollywood hills with his girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt.

But he was really a Northern California kid. His dad, the former governor Pat Brown, had been San Francisco DA.

Jerry Brown, after leaving office, moved to Oakland and became a downtown loft kind of guy. He even married an ex-Gap executive.

His election highlights the Bay Area's revival as the home turf of California political power.

The lieutenant governor to be, Gavin Newsom, is the mayor of San Francisco. New attorney general Kamala Harris? She was San Francisco DA, just like Brown's father.

California's two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, are Bay Area all the way. One's a former San Francisco official, the other's from across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.

State treasurer Bill Lockyer was a founder of the Young Democrats at Berkeley and he comes from Alameda County, across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco.

The only presence from the LA area that prevents a clean sweep by Northern California is that the secretary of state and the state controller are from the South Bay. You know their names, right?

The last few Speakers of the Assembly have also hailed from the Los Angeles area, because Democrats own a solid bloc of seats in the center of LA.

John Perez, the current Speaker, is a cousin of the mayor.

San Francisco recently lost one when Nancy Pelosi had to give up her gavel as Speaker of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.

But for now, as the Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote recently, the Bay Area reigns supreme in California politics.

For those of us from SoCal, we have to be content in knowing that these things go in cycles. The San Francisco Giants are even the champions of baseball, so maybe it's just the Bay Area's year.

The south will rise again, someday.

A quick addendum to last week's column on bookstores: Another local Borders store is closing, this one in Thousand Oaks.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.