ROSEVILLE " For more than four years, Charlie Brown and his family focused on continuing the former Air Force lieutenant colonel's more than two decades in public service.
But as he dined on a Reuben sandwich at Roseville's Pacific Street Cafe " across from his erstwhile campaign headquarters " Brown sounded very much like a man who wanted to make his public life a little more private, at least for now, following his 1,800-vote loss to Republican Tom McClintock.
"Now I have the chance to get back and do the things I want to do again," Brown told The Union. Those priorities included driving to Iowa during the holidays to visit his 86-year-old mother, a staunch Republican organizer in her early days. The trip came at an appropriate time, he said.
"She told me, 'If you come back before the election is over, I'm going to be mad at you,'" he joked.
With the election very much over, the Democrat is proud that he energized an electorate in the 4th District that was once decidedly red.
Brown did not entirely rule out another run for the 4th Congressional District seat, noting he has money left in his campaign war chest from the just-completed contest. He said Wednesday that it was too early to determine if he would run again. He is hoping, however, that his strong showing shows a willingness on the part of voters to look past ideology and focus on the issues.
Brown has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission stating the money is in a 2010 campaign account.
Brown said that he campaigned as "the people's representative" and less as someone with a "D" or an "R" by his name. It's a notion borne out by the increase of voters in the district who declined to state their party affiliations between 2006 and 2008.
In those two years, 13,000 new voters registered "decline to state" on their party registration forms, compared with 14,000 new Democrats and 8,000 new Republicans.
"In 2008, people were thinking, you can't pigeonhole people as strictly Republican or Democrat in this district," Brown said. "I talked to people, I got in front of them, and for the first time, people realized they had a choice," he said. "The issue became, what are you doing for things that affect my community."
With John T. Doolittle, who represented the district in Congress for 18 years, "people did not have a real choice," Brown said.
Brown said he subscribes to a theory proffered by Ohio politician Paul Hackett, who said, "If you agree with 9 out of 12 things I say, please vote for me. If you agree on 12 out of 12 things I say, seek psychiatric help."
"I'm not asking you to agree with me on everything. Just find common ground," Brown said. "We have to start solving these problems rather than walking away from them."
After an often bruising campaign in which both Brown and McClintock exchanged barbs over how to lead the sprawling district, both candidates headed to Washington in November for freshman orientation.
They checked into their hotel at the same time, rode the same bus to meetings together and even selected the same congressional office. Their meetings were cordial, Brown said.
"I told him I think we've both paid enough in attorney fees and we'd gone through enough of this," Brown joked. "I appreciate that he won a good, above-board race."
Brown, who has lived in the district since 1991, said he hopes McClintock, who represented a Southern California district in the state Senate and lives in Thousand Oaks, learns quickly.
"I hope he will get involved in the district and spend the time to get to know it," Brown said. "I'm here by choice. What I hope he will do is promote opportunities for the district, because he has a learning curve to understand what people want."
Brown said he will do his best to keep tabs on issues important to Nevada County, which he easily won in 2006 and 2008. He plans to watch the progression of talks for the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine and spend time up here when possible.
Some locals are hoping Brown reconsiders for 2010.
"I would say that the groundswell of support for him was very strong," said Brown supporter and Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout. "I would love to see him try again in two years. The fact that he did as well as he did in such a heavily Republican district is a testament to his perseverance."
Supporter Hank Dax of Nevada City also is hoping Brown will run again.
"He came off as a man who was thinking for the people," Dax said. "If he asked my opinion, I'd say do it again. He's a good man, an honest man and he would do well by the people."
Brown said he ended his campaign $20,000 in the black, which he will use to invest in a veterans charity fund he established. He thanked his supporters, and said he'll be cheering for them" likely from the sidelines.
"We want them to stay energized and involved," Brown said. "If nothing else, we want them to stay aware of what's going on."
To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4239.