(CNN) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown jumped into the race for the state's next governor Tuesday, saying "we need someone with insider's knowledge but an outsider's mind" to help solve its problems.
In a video message posted on his Web site, Brown said, "Our state is in serious trouble, and the next governor must have the preparation and the knowledge and the know how to get California working again."
If elected, this would be the second time around for Brown, who served two terms as California Governor from 1975-1983. Brown has already amassed at least a $12 million-dollar war chest and he has attracted the support of big Hollywood kingmakers; David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are among those who have publicly endorsed him. So far no other big name Democrats are in the race; San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, once presumed to be Brown's fiercest primary opponent, dropped out of the contest last October.
The most recent surveys of California voters, conducted in mid-January by the Public Policy Institute and the Field Poll, indicated Brown leading the top Republican candidates - besting Meg Whitman by 5 to 10 points; and topping State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner by 15 to 17 points.
One top Democratic donor who was torn between backing Brown and former eBay CEO Whitman tells CNN,"This is not the time in California's history to have someone who has never served in government deal with our problems."
This would be Whitman's first time in public office; both she and Poinzer are pouring tens of millions of dollars from their own fortunes into their races.
Even before his official announcement was posted, Whitman's campaign was already on the attack questioning Brown's fiscal skills in his previous jobs.
When Brown left the governor's office the first time, he was a controversial figure. He was California's youngest governor since the turn of the 20th century and the son of former two-term Gov. Pat Brown. He also gained national attention for dating Linda Ronstadt and sleeping on a futon in an apartment to save money on staffing the governor's mansion. He earned the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" after he proposed buying space on a satellite to enhance state communications in the event of an emergency; that's now common practice and the former Governor insists he's vindicated.
In an interview with CNN conducted last year, Brown said he was ahead of his time in other areas as well: promoting alternative energy production, encouraging diversity in government hiring, and reigning in government spending. Brown said he's not surprised he was mocked, telling CNN: "There's a certain regression to the mean in politics. Things tend to mediocrity," and adding that his policies "in a very dramatic and forceful way set the pace for the whole country."
He hopes to do the same now. Brown has run for President, studied Buddhism, traveled with Mother Theresa, and served two terms as Mayor of Oakland. He still retains some of his 1970s consciousness-raising way of thinking. When asked how he would solve California's debilitating budget gap and its ongoing legislative gridlock, he said the answer is "a collective learning by the state."
While Whitman is proposing a state constitutional convention to fix their legislative mess, Brown tends to the abstract.
He told CNN: "If we don't forge this creative consensus, California will deteriorate and it'll just be the beginning of a larger deterioration in our country. I can contribute in a positive way of getting to this more enlightened state, this more accommodating, collaborative, state of representation."
Also in the race: Actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband Prince Frederic von Anhalt. He says he's running as an independent. Von Anhalt gained national notoriety when he claimed paternity of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter.
–CNN's Kevin Bohn and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story