I Profiled the First Lady


Is Anne Gust Brown the most powerful woman in California? Probably! Here’s my deep dive at Sactown, starring Anne and the governor himself:

Anne’s presence alone signifies a unique break from first lady orthodoxy. Shunning causes or issues beyond whatever is on the governor’s agenda, she maintains the lowest profile possible to accomplish the decidedly, if deceptively, unglamorous work of governing the Golden State. Whereas Shriver maintained but infrequently visited her own office at the Capitol over seven years, Anne occasionally shares her desk with another legal adviser in the Brown administration. (She opted out of continuing Shriver’s annual Women’s Conference, and she demurs when asked about pursuing policy objectives of her own during Brown’s final term.) Whereas Sharon Davis waged a tireless public war against the forces that would unseat her husband Gray Davis in 2003’s historic recall election, Anne prefers candid conversations with Jerry and their confederates behind the scenes. Whereas Jerry’s mother, Bernice Brown, who was first lady to Gov. Pat Brown, once was credited with the tongue-in-cheek admission that “she never would have chosen a political career for her husband if the choice had been hers to make,” Anne quietly shepherds the governor’s ambitions toward concrete political reality.

“I don’t want to sound like a doormat or something,” she says, again invoking her primary role as unpaid special counsel to the governor. “He and I discuss [policies], and whatever he decides will be a worthy goal, in my opinion, because he’s a pretty smart guy. I just want to help as best I can on that. I don’t find [distractions] particularly helpful because these goals and things we’re trying to accomplish are labor-intensive and involve a lot. I think the best use of my time is helping him with this, not coming up with my own separate goals.”

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