Jerry Brown Says He's Uncowed by Billionaire Contender

Former Calif. gov bets his "frugality" can beat Meg Whitman's massive coffers.

ByABC News
June 9, 2010, 4:20 PM

June 9, 2010— -- Before his four-decade career in politics, Jerry Brown briefly entered a Jesuit seminary. It is that monkish sense of austerity with which the California Democrat plans to run against a billionaire Republican gubernatorial opponent with virtually bottomless coffers.

If elected, Brown, 72, will be the oldest sitting governor in the United States. A fixture of California politics and the state's current attorney general, Brown was governor from 1975 to 1983 and ran three unsuccessful presidential campaigns.

"It'll be a tough fight. Maybe the toughest," Brown said of the upcoming general election against newly minted Republican candidate Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay who spent $80 million during the primary and has pledged to spend as much as $150 million of her own money in her bid to become governor.

"I'm going to be as frugal as I can," Brown told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. He used the words "frugal" or "frugality" several times in the course of the brief interview. Austerity, he said, begins at home.

"We need now to reset," he said. "So austerity, some frugality, and I know how to do that. When I was governor, I got rid of the jet. I didn't live in the mansion."

"Are you going to do that again," asked Sawyer. "No plane for you? No mansion for you again?"

"No," said Brown. "Well, there is no mansion."

Brown said he is prepared for a difficult battle in which Whitman will blitz California's airwaves and voters' mailboxes with a message that is fiscally conservative and promises job creation.

"Every hour, maybe every 15 minutes, everyone's going to hear the opponent's message. That is quite extraordinary," he said.

Brown, just a day after winning his party's nomination, went on the attack, assailing Whitman's lack of political experience, the timing of her pay raises as CEO, and her record on job creation in the private sector. He claimed some jobs she was created were "exported" out of the state. Meg Whitman declined to be interviewed by ABC News.