Jerry Brown reflects on his sister and the power of the ‘family system’

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This December 14, 2010 photo shows the government of the day. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, with now-Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Brown’s sisters Cynthia Kelly, left, and Kathleen Brown in Sacramento, Calif.

Hector Amezcua

The Sacramento Bee

The Browns hold such a prominent place in California history that, in praising his sister on Monday, Governor Jerry Brown also offered a reflection on the power of the family.

“This is a death, this is a change,” Brown told hundreds of mourners at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in San Francisco. “But there is also a continuity.

Brown, the son of the late Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, said his sister Cynthia Brown Kelly’s family “did not come out of nowhere.”

Its connections are far-reaching. Brown, who turns 77 on Tuesday, said William Newsom, the father of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, recently told him he had already had a date with Brown’s sister. The governor used the anecdote to contrast the “merit system” with what he called the “family system”.

“So Newsom is there because his dad was one of the first and biggest contributors to my dad’s campaign,” Brown said. “So I know that’s not fair. I know all of these families dominate San Francisco. But too bad. Gavin Newsom did not become lieutenant governor in substance. He got there because his father kidnapped my sister Cynthia.

Brown and Newsom’s family ties are well documented, and Brown meant that as a joke.

After the laughter subsided, Brown added that Newsom, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate, “has a lot of merit.”

“Lots of merit,” Brown repeated.

Cynthia Brown Kelly died last month at age 81.

In 2013, Jerry Brown declared his sister’s birthday that year to be “Cynthia Kelly Day”. He ended his eulogy on Monday with a reading of this proclamation, changing the date to April 6.

She was celebrated for her gregarious spirit and as an organizer of family reunions. Brown said his sister would have loved the memorial mass.

“Looking from the sky, she succeeded,” he said. “And I think she must be very excited about it.”

This story was originally published April 6, 2015 3:30 p.m.

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