AS America's most-watched governor's race for 1994 approaches
its first curve - the June 7 Democratic primary - the lead rider is
in danger of being bucked by her own bugle-cry.
After opening up a substantial 20- to 30-point lead over Gov.
Pete Wilson last December, Democratic state treasurer Kathleen
Brown watched the gap close as she stumbled amidst political gaffes
and staff shakeups. In March, a new political image-maker was hired
who created a slogan that has begun airing in statewide TV ads:
"America's Best Treasurer To Revive America's Worst Economy."
Now with the primary date fast approaching, Ms. Brown is being
taken to task by local and national economists for trying to
capitalize on a state in fragile recovery and also misstating the
"It is unfortunate that a major, American gubernatorial
candidate is contributing to the polluting frenzy of misinformation
about the California economy," says Phil Burgess, president of the
Denver Center for the New West, a non-partisan, non-profit think
tank that examines economic trends in the West.
Admitting that California has been through a tough recession -
losing 600,000 to 800,000 jobs since 1990 - he says the state's
overall economic strength alone would make it the world's seventh
largest economy. The state still ranks in the top quarter in
several indicators, he says, including high-tech growth,
telecommunications, highway infrastructure, foreign trade, per
"Brown is trying to make political hay by making California
sound like Arkansas, Mississippi, or Alabama ... Get serious!" Mr.
Joel Kotkin, a California-based economist for the Progressive
Policy Institute in Washington, has taken issue with the Brown
claim in print and broadcast. "California is not remotely the
worst economy in the country," he says, citing the May issue of
Inc. magazine indicating 33 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing
companies are located here. "You don't have that much successful,
entrepreneurial activity in a bottomed-out state."
The figures mentioned by the Brown camp to support its
contention, are job losses, which currently push California's
unemployment to 9.7 percent - well over the national average of
6.7. But those numbers are highly deceiving, Mr. Kotkin says,
because they are based on previous labor participation rates that
are up to 20 percent higher than states such as Massachusetts,
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York. …