OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ In his return to politics, former Gov. Jerry Brown appeared headed to victory Tuesday in his bid to become mayor of Oakland.

Brown, dubbed ``Gov. Moonbeam'' for his unconventional ways, collected 65 percent of the votes on absentee ballots and led a crowded field. He needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a November runoff.

Even as hundreds of supporters celebrated the returns, Brown didn't consider it a total victory.

``The victory will come when the people of Oakland feel so safe that they start taking the bars off the windows and the gates in front of their doors come down,'' he said Tuesday night. ``That's the victory.''

Challenger Ed Blakely, an urban planning professor, followed Brown with 13 percent of the absentee vote, while NAACP chapter president Shannon Reeves had 6 percent.

In a city plagued with crime and poverty, Brown _ a two-term governor and three-time presidential candidate _ touted Oakland as the perfect place to start on his road back to democracy's grass roots: A small-town fixer-upper of sorts.