The campaign of firebrand tea party politician Tim Donnelly, seeking to become California’s next governor, is gaining steam despite controversial remarks about his opponent and a dearth of campaign funds, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The 48-year-old state assemblyman originally from Georgia — he is one of 14 children — is one of the most conservative members of his legislature, according to the Times, and is known for his strident support for gun rights.
Earlier this year, he compared President Barack Obama’s gun policies to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Kim Jong Il, The Washington Times
His slogan: "Patriot not Politician" and his message
– "a gun in every Californian’s gun safe … the government out of our businesses and our bedrooms" – has resonated with many in The Golden State as Donnelly has rocketed in the polls to become the GOP’s front-runner to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. The California primary is June 3.
It’s a political conundrum to many Republicans, including Rep. Darrell Issa and former Gov. Pete Wilson, both of whom have denounced him. Wilson cited Donnelly’s misdemeanor plea – and current status as a probationer – for taking a loaded gun to LA/Ontario International Airport in 2012 as disqualifying him from holding elected office.
Donnelly has said he forgot the loaded Colt .45 was in his carry-on.
Issa has voiced harsh criticism
of Donnelly’s remarks about his opponent, moderate Republican Neel Kashkari, whom Donnelly has tried to link to Sharia law for his participation in a U.S. Treasury conference about Islamic finance. Kashkari is of Hindu and Indian descent, according to the Times.
"It is crap like this that gives Republicans a bad name, and there is no place in the Republican Party or in this race for someone like Tim Donnelly," Issa, who is of Arab heritage, said in a statement earlier this month, the Huffington Post
Even GOP bulwark Karl Rove warns that a Donnelly victory could hurt the party. Rove told the Times that Republicans will "be forced to disavow" Donnelly if he’s the candidate to face Brown in the general election.
Despite all the negatives, Donnelly continues to soar. Claremont McKenna College government professor Jack Pitney, who is a former GOP national operative, characterized the campaign as a "guerrilla operation" that defies historical trends.
Donnelly, Pitney explained, is "communicating with people by social media, talking to groups, campaigning on the grapevine."
Donnelly agrees, telling the Times that he’s excited to see if the little guy without deep pockets can prevail over the well-financed party favorite.
"I think on June 3 we're going to find out if grass roots is something more than just a little bit of cream frosting on top of a wonderful carrot cake, and if it can be a serious part — even the backbone — of a campaign," he said.
He dismissed his naysayers, even within the GOP, as being motivated by a desire to keep the status quo.
"You can say anything you want about me, but I go to people's doorsteps, and I talk to them, and I go everywhere," he said. "I get criticized all the time, but you know what? They keep spelling my name right."
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