With just over a year until the midterm elections, California’s next gubernatorial race is starting to take shape.
Gov. Jerry Brown is widely expected to ask voters to send him back to the statehouse in 2014. Republicans would love nothing more than to thwart the 75-year-old Democrat’s plans for a fourth and final term, but they face long odds. The California GOP has suffered a string of losses in recent elections, leaving the party with no statewide constitutional offices and less than a third of state legislative seats as its share of the electorate dipped to less than 30 percent of registered voters. Despite the setbacks, several potential challengers have emerged. Meet three of the Republicans weighing a run against Brown next year:
Name: Abel Maldonado
Residence: Santa Maria
Resume highlights: Maldonado’s
decade-plus career in the state Capitol peaked in 2010 when then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger picked the Central Coast Republican to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office. He lost a bid for a full term in that seat later in the year though and fell short in a 2012 House race against Democratic Rep. Lois Capps.
His pitch: Maldonado is making public safety a central issue of his bid, spearheading a ballot measure campaign to repeal the prison realignment plan pushed by Brown. He’s also highlighting the 29-year age gap between himself and Brown by blasting out meme-friendly images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Some GOP insiders and donors like him because they think he can help the beleaguered party repair its reputation among Latinos. That thinking landed him an early contribution from Santa Clara County Republican Party Chairman Charles T. Munger Jr., a Stanford University physicist who has poured millions into recent elections.
Critics say: There’s a vocal swath of Republicans who still haven’t forgiven Maldonado for adding the final aye to a 2009 budget package that included temporary tax increases. That deal paved the way for the passage of the Maldonado-backed ballot measure that created the top-two primary system, a change despised by leaders of both major political parties. Back-to-back losses and some personal baggage, including a large tax lien from an ongoing dispute between his family farm and the Internal Revenue Service, doesn’t help his case.
In his words: “Governor Brown has not prioritized. He’s failed to prioritize. And I want to stop there because, actually, he has prioritized, and it’s not the safety of the people of California.” — Maldonado announcing his initiative in May, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Name: Neel Kashkari
Residence: Orange County, though he also maintains a cabin in Truckee.
Resume highlights: Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Treasury Department appointee, is best known for his high-profile role in implementing the federal bank bailout. He exited the nation’s capital in 2009 and, after a brief respite at his Tahoe home, headed south to work as an executive for the investment firm PIMCO. He left that job in January, announcing his intention to explore a run for public office in California.
His pitch: Education and the economy are top issues for Kashkari, who says the lack of an “honest discussion” about those challenges is holding the state back. Kashkari, the son of Indian immigrants, also argues his relative youth and diverse background will allow him to infuse the state with new ideas. The moderate Republican is supportive of abortion rights, immigration reform and same-sex marriage, according to one report in The San Francisco Chronicle, positions that could help win votes from independent and even Democratic voters should he make it into the top two.
Critics say: He’s too green. Kashkari has never run for office, period, so why will voters trust him to run the nation’s most populous state? His history with TARP could turn off both Democrats wary of a Bush administration appointee and Republicans who opposed the bank bailout in the first place. Kashkari does have personal wealth to play to his advantage but not enough to self-finance a campaign á la 2010 gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman, who spent $144 million of her own cash in her failed bid against Brown.
In his words: “I’m not your typical California Republican. I come from a modest upbringing. I have a successful track record. I’m an optimist. And I think something can be done if people work together.” — Kashkari in a January interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Name: Tim Donnelly
Residence: Twin Peaks
Resume highlights: Donnelly was best known as a member of the Minutemen Project in California before an upset victory in a GOP legislative primary sent him to the state Capitol in 2010. His anti-illegal immigration campaign and ongoing effort to promote a conservative agenda in the state Capitol have landed him appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show.”
His pitch: Donnelly trumpets himself as the true conservative alternative to Brown. His record backs those claims. He’s considered one of the most conservative — and combative — GOP state legislators, leading opposition to
Democrat-backed bills on issues like gun control and rights for undocumented immigrants. He says he’ll run a “guerrilla campaign” modeled after his grassroots Assembly run, bragging at one summer event that he picked up several votes while waiting in line for the bathroom.
Critics say: He can’t win. Registered Republicans now account for less than a third of the state’s electorate, with the percentage of Californians identifying as “very conservative” hovering around 13 percent in one recent public opinion poll. Furthermore, many GOP operatives and the party itself fear a Donnelly campaign is bad politics for a party trying to rebuild and broaden its reach.
In his words: “The way we’re going to get back to being a free people is when our candidates are wearing out boots, not wearing out golf clubs.” — Donnelly at an appearance in Atascadero, according to Cal Coast News.
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