Republican Neel Kashkari, a political newcomer who ran the federal bailout of the U.S. banking system, will challenge incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown for governor of California in November, according to election returns.
Using a new primary election system that sends the top two vote-getters to the general election regardless of party, Brown was leading with about 54 percent, followed by Kashkari at 19 percent, according to the California Secretary of State’s office, with 79 percent of precincts counted. Tim Donnelly, a state assemblyman allied with the Tea Party, was third with 15 percent and conceded early today.
Kashkari’s victory comes amid a civil war between the Republican Party’s more traditional business-backed wing and the Tea Party’s small-government advocates. Prominent Republicans warned that Donnelly threatened the image of the party in a state that produced presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and superstar Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Kashkari is the underdog, but he will fare better than Donnelly would have,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. “Unless he makes some big mistakes, Kashkari will not be a liability to other Republicans.”
Brown, 76, enters the general election far ahead of Kashkari in polls and with $21 million in campaign cash. Buoyed by a boost in state revenue from a resurgent economy and increased taxes approved by voters, Brown can boast of a budget surplus and better credit ratings in a state once compared to Greece for its fiscal turmoil.
A University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released June 1 found Brown would beat Kashkari, 55 percent to 27 percent, if the general election were held today. The telephone poll of 1,511 registered voters from May 21-28 had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
“I’m cautious,” Brown told reporters outside the historic Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento. “I am going to do everything I can to merit the people’s trust and then in November the people will choose whether they want an unprecedented fourth term or not.” Brown is the longest-serving governor in state history.
Kashkari, 40, with $1.4 million in campaign cash as of May 22, is making his first run for public office. A former executive at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Pacific Investment Management Co., Kashkari managed the U.S. Treasury’s $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Donnelly, 48, a gun-rights advocate, is on probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges for carrying a loaded pistol into an airport in 2012. He said he’d forgotten he had the gun. A former member of a vigilante group that patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, Donnelly has likened undocumented immigrants to violent insurgents and suggested that Kashkari, a Hindu, supports radical Islamic law.
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