Second comings

Mellow out or you will pay: OK, so Sacramento is getting used to the idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not only the second coming of Pete Wilson—who co-chaired the Governator’s campaign—but also of Gray Davis, whose fund-raising excesses Arnold promised to avoid.

So, maybe it’s time to take this history-repeating-itself thing a step further and ask ourselves: Is Sacramento ready for the second coming of Jerry Brown?

The former governor who inspired the Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles” clearly thinks so. Facing term limits as mayor of Oakland, Brown sent a letter to supporters this month saying that he’s raised more than $1.5 million in his campaign to run for state attorney general in 2006. “Both my father [former Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown] and Earl Warren served as California’s attorney general and are giants in political history because they put principle above politics and believed that each person was equal before the law,” says Brown. “That’s my philosophy, as well.”

Brown returns to state politics after several detours—some successful, and others not. Brown ran for president in 1976 and 1980, and a 1982 bid for Senate was thwarted by an upstart Pete Wilson. After that, it was off to Japan for six months, followed by a stint working with Mother Teresa in India. He made another presidential bid in 1992, after resigning his post as chairman of the California Democratic Party and condemning money’s influence over politics. While again unsuccessful, Brown was well ahead of his time in his use of an 800 number to collect contributions of $100 or less, a tactic that foreshadowed the grassroots fund-raising efforts of Howard Dean and John Kerry.

Brown, now serving his second stint as mayor of Oakland, points to concerns about the war on terrorism and its effects on individual liberty as a primary motivation for him seeking the state’s second-most-powerful post.

Is this town big enough to hold both a serial Terminator and a former Governor Moonbeam? Maybe not, but Bites, for one, finds the idea of placing principle above politics to be practically revolutionary.

Ring in the new: Local gay couples have an extra reason to celebrate this New Year’s Day—January 1 is the day a new California Domestic Partner Law goes into effect. The law, which offers couples a host of new rights, is one bright spot at a time when gay marriage has been successfully exploited as a wedge issue by right-wing strategists.

But, before running out on Monday and getting all partnered up, couples should proceed with at least some measure of caution. For, while the new law offers a number of the advantages of marriage, it also brings with it some significant disadvantages. For example, imagine what fun awaits the happy individual who discovers the intricacies of his or her partner’s credit history for the first time when they go to apply for a car loan. Although there’s still no joint tax filing, domestic partners will get to share credit ratings, debt responsibility and communal property—even, potentially, custody and child-support battles.

In other words, take a lesson from George W. Bush and company and don’t go half-cocked into your big adventure without at least thinking about an exit strategy. Previously, a domestic partnership could be unilaterally ended simply by sending a single certified letter to the state; now, get ready for a brave new world of courts, lawyers and arbitration.

That said, the single most dramatic change coming January 1 is that all California employers who offer health-care coverage to their married employees will have to extend the same coverage to the domestic partners of gays and lesbians. For many, health insurance is reason enough to get married (hell, it’s a primary reason most people stay at their jobs).

In any event, Bites cautions prospective partners to heed the sage advice of Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility. So, be careful out there, people!