By DAN MORAIN
Jerry Brown spent the better part of an hour in the noonday sun at a rally of family members of murder victims, organized by California’s prison officers’ union. “Governor Brown, I can’t tell you enough how much it means to have you here,” Mike Jimenez, the Correctional Peace Officers Association president, said in his remarks.
Brown’s appearance at the rally Monday was the least of what he has done for the union and for its proxy group, Crime Victims United. In his three-plus months in office, Brown has given the 30,000-member union much of what it has sought, most importantly a new labor contract.
The scene on the west steps of the Capitol was a head-spinner, until you think about what drives much of this town’s politics. In many different ways, it comes down to money. Brown was sharing the stage with Jimenez and Harriet Salarno, the 78-year-old leader of Crime Victims United, a nonprofit corporation that the union helped create and still funds.
There was a time when Salarno was among Brown’s most potent enemies. She has been involved in the crime victims’ movement since her oldest daughter was murdered in 1979, back when Brown was governor the first time and the crime victims’ movement was nascent.
By 1986, Salarno emerged as a leader in the campaign by grieving mothers and fathers of murdered children — organized by political operatives — to vote out Brown’s Supreme Court appointees led by Chief Justice Rose Bird. Bird incurred the victims’ wrath by regularly voting to overturn death sentences and curb the role of crime victims in the criminal justice system.
In 2006, Salarno opposed Brown when he ran for attorney general, and stood alongside Brown’s foe, Charles Poochigian, when he declared that Brown “has consistently fallen on the wrong side of the fence on victims’ issues.