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After a stint as a radio talk-show host in Berkeley, he was elected mayor of Oakland, an unenviable post in a down-and-out city that hardly seemed befitting a former governor.

But Mr. Brown used the job to restart his political career, reshaping his image as the Catholic-Zen philosopher boy-king into that of a hands-on problem-solver. He became a visible and energetic promoter of economic redevelopment and downtown renewal, even when it meant crossing his liberal allies with support for charter schools and the military.

Elected state attorney general in 2006, Mr. Brown has managed to combine his longtime environmental agenda with a tough-on-crime, consumer-rights stance that could appeal to voters across the political spectrum. Not that he could be described as conservative: He refused to defend Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage measure that passed in 2008, even though the attorney general traditionally defends successful ballot initiatives from legal challenges.

Mr. Brown declined to comment on his plans, saying he isn’t doing political interviews at this time. But he hinted at the future on his “Jerry Brown 2010” Web site in a reference to his famously Picasso-esque governor’s portrait.

“My official portrait as governor was quite controversial and the legislature refused to hang it,” Mr. Brown said in an entry called “25 Random Things About Me.” “My father said if I didn’t get a new one, I could never run again. It is now hanging and I am still running.”