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Joe Guzzardi: Neel Kashkari won’t win — or energize Republican base

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Posted: Friday, June 6, 2014 9:51 pm

Neel Kashkari will be the latest Republican victim in Democrat-controlled California. Kashkari is this year’s version of Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Elizabeth Emken, landslide losers to, respectively, Jerry Brown, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Go back a little further in California GOP electoral politics and you’ll stumble upon a graveyard full of candidates you’ve forgotten, assuming you ever knew them to begin with. There’s Bill Jones, who in lost to Boxer in 2004 and collected 38 percent of the vote. Jones’ campaign was so poorly funded that he couldn’t afford to buy a single television ad. In 2006, Feinstein buried Dick Montejoy, who did even worse than Jones by tallying 35 percent. Matt Fong did the best of all the GOP losers by coming within 10 percent of Boxer in 1998.

Jones, formerly California’s Secretary of State, and Fong, formerly Treasurer, had impressive credentials. But the differences in their platforms weren’t well enough drawn to get out the Republican vote. Page 1 from Politics 101: It’s all about winning! Kashkari will lose, maybe even by a greater margin than Jones and Montejoy, so why bother?

Over the next few weeks, Californians will hear plenty about how sacrificial lamb Kashkari is the right man to restore the Republican Party to its former grandeur. Wrong! The way to reinstate the GOP to its good old Ronald Reagan days would be to start winning elections.

Populist Assemblyman Tim Donnelly might not have beaten Jerry Brown in November. But Donnelly could have made the election more interesting. If disenfranchised registered Republicans who haven’t voted in 30 years turned out, Donnelly might have had an outside shot, something globalist Kashkari doesn’t.

Donnelly is pro-guns, pro-life and anti-illegal immigration — issues that resonate in California but which Brown opposes. Not all of California is liberal left. Once you get out of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the rest of the state leans slightly to the moderate right.

Donnelly would have had many talking points in his favor, namely Brown’s dismal governing record, which includes approving A.B. 60, a bill that authorized driver’s licenses for aliens. A Zogby Analytics poll of likely California voters found that 59 percent agreed with the statement: “State and local governments should adopt policies that discourage illegal immigrants from settling in California,” something A.B. 60 clearly does. Voters also disapprove Brown’s Trust Act that exempts many illegal immigrants from deportation, and giving alien Sergio Garcia the right to practice law.

Many Californians support Donnelly’s immigration enforcement first policy over Brown’s advocacy. But voters have no say. The California Latino Legislative Caucus writes legislation, then Brown signs it into law.

As for California’s allegedly improved economy, which Brown is sure to make much of, it may be better in Silicon Valley and Beverly Hills, but outside of those well-heeled communities the state is a train wreck. The Central California Valley — which includes Lodi, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield — has among the nation’s highest or close to the highest poverty, welfare dependency and income inequality, according to the U.S. Census. Poverty is rising; median income is falling.

Education Week, a magazine that evaluate states’ classroom performances, ranks California as a “D,” 10th lowest in the nation.

Brown’s record would represents a bonanza for a skilled, hard-hitting opponent. But Kashkari isn’t that guy. Try as he might, Kashkari — because of his role in the TARP bailout that saved his former Goldman Sachs colleagues from financial ruin — won’t be able to encourage enough Republicans to vote for him. Voters’ memories may be short, but not that short.

Early polling has Brown over Kashkari, 44-19, a margin that sounds about right.

Joe Guzzardi was a 2003 candidate for California governor. Contact him at

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