Jerry Brown was often identified as the adult in the room when he served as a check on legislative moves to take California beyond practical boundaries. The state has a new governor now and Gavin Newsom often draws outside traditional lines.

Chris Micheli wrote a widely circulated summary on bills that Governor Newsom signed and Governor Brown vetoed, 66 in all. 

This is not to say that Brown made the correct decision and Newsom the wrong choice on all those issues. In fact, some of Newsom’s vetoes were praised for keeping the legislature from going overboard on some issues. See Jon Coupal’s column from the Orange County Register that is re-published on this page today. 

Then there is Ben Christopher’s CalMatters piece that uses a metric calculation to find Newsom is more moderate than most of the Democrats in the legislature.  

Still, Newsom thinks the long arm of government has a role to play in many matters that Brown rejected. 

It’s hard to imagine Newsom writing veto messages that Brown issued on beach smoking and presidential candidate tax returns, for example.

Newsom didn’t agree with Brown’s reasoning in banning smoking on beaches, which Brown vetoed with the admonition, “There must be some limit to the coercive power of government.” 

Newsom, in his duel with the White House, cheerily signed a bill aimed clearly at Donald Trump requiring that tax returns for presidential candidates must be released before a candidate can appear on a state primary ballot. Brown turned down a similar bill as the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent when he wisely wrote in his veto message,  “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?” 

California politics may have moved past Jerry Brown as it marches leftward. But reading recent polling of voter concerns, many likely voters do not want be in that parade. 

Which leads to an intriguing question. In top-two California, putting term limits rules aside, how would Jerry Brown fare against Gavin Newsom? Or, to put it another way, how far are Californians willing to wander from the center?