Kashkari, Donnelly Offer Differing Directions for California Republicans

by Brian Leubitz on November 19, 2013

With about one year left until the 2014 election, the GOP field for the second spot in the top-2 governor’s election seems to be a very intriguing trio.Abel Maldonado and Tim Donnelly have more or less made their candidacies official. On the other hand, former Goldman Sachs (and TARP administrator) Neil Kashkari has been less forthcoming on official news. However, he clearly seems to be building a campaign, and a non-traditional GOP campaign at that. He’s clearly trying to come at it from the middle, but Joe Garofoli of the SF Chronicle looks at some who wonder at how that will fare in the CRP.

Two of California’s likely Republican candidates for governor are going to put that to the test: Are voters – particularly conservative ones – ready for GOP candidates who are pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage rights and pro-pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally?

It is a long shot. Those positions contradict the Republican national platform, and they’re deal killers to the hard-core conservatives who make up the bulk of GOP primary voters.

“This is test case nationally of what the Growth and Opportunity Project (postmortem) was suggesting,” said Alex Carey, a Sausalito resident and veteran GOP strategist who was an adviser to GOP Minnesota governor and 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

“California could be on the leading edge of what the party wants to do,” Carey said. “But some conservatives will have to look beyond what their differences are with the candidates.”

For years, the media has been trying to shoehorn some level of moderation in the CRP. And for a while, maybe there was some there. Gov Schwarzenegger wasn’t exactly moderate, but nor was he what you would call right-wing these days. And Duf Sundheim, a former chair of the party, worked to create a somewhat inclusive party. But in the end, if you look around at today’s CRP, you don’t find a lot of inclusion there. You find Tim Donnelly.

While the media likes to think that because we have a pretty progressive majority in the Legislature and our representatives, that the CRP must reflect that as well. They would be wrong. The California GOP is just as hard-core and full of true believers as any, right up there with Dixie. It turns out that the fog of progressivism doesn’t really roll all the way into every California community.

Maybe Kashkari can draw enough interest to finish in second place and get to a one on one matchup with Governor Brown. But when running against Maldonado, considered to be the GOP’s legislative version of a moderate, how does he carve out the votes in what will likely be a low turnout June election? Will the two “moderates” open up a path to the general election for Donnelly?

While a moderate and vigorous GOP, or any strong second party, would be of considerable value for the state, that isn’t where the Republicans are headed right now. And ignoring the social issues tends to only work if you are a some sort of movie star. Kashkari might draw a fair share of interest, but I find it hard to believe that a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality candidate, who also happens to have spent a fare share of time at Goldman Sachs, can really be welcome in today’s GOP.

This piece first appeared in calitics.com

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