After an introductory video where he called for the type of spending cap and rainy day fund that Californians overwhelmingly rejected last May, former California Governor Jerry Brown took to the stage in Los Angeles to chants of “Jerry! Jerry!” And he delivered a bombshell – calling for an immediate series of debates, before the end of the primary campaign, between himself, Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, the major candidates for Governor.

Brown released a letter to both Whitman and Poizner calling for three debates around the state, in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. “We should not delay an honest and open discussion of the issues, and I believe you will agree that 30 and 60-second TV commercials are no substitute for serious debate.”

I think Whitman would disagree, actually. And typically the “call for debates” ploy is the one that the underdog adopts. But in this case, at least Brown is signaling that he wants to reach out and offer a vision for the future of the state. And that vision came today with an absolute pounding of the Wall Street banks and a hefty dose of populism. “Democrats saved this country from the Depression, now Democrats are trying to save this country from the Wall Street ripoff and the credit meltdown,” said Brown.

“Democracy is not about buying hundreds of millions of dollars in 30-second TV ads,” Brown told the assembled delegates. “We’re not consumers of advertising, we’re agents of democratic choice. I think we need a different framework. I am challenging my Democratic Republican opponents to a three-way debate. Come out from behind those glittering poppy fields… come out and debate in prime-time.”

Obviously, Brown is trying to paint his multi-millionaire opponents, particularly Whitman, as marketing tools instead of public servants, and he is positioning himself as the man of ideas in the race instead of the product touted in TV ads.

Brown called for job creation effort through greentech, but insisted that we can’t go back to “the same practices and abuses” in the financial industry “that caused the collapse in the first place… That collapse destroyed over $11 trillion dollars. The greatest bank robbery in the history of this country. The government didn’t do that, Wall Street did that. The market scam operators did that.”

It was an interesting approach that at least shook up the conversation a bit in an otherwise torpid race on the Democratic side of the aisle.