Since Neel Kashkari's formal announcement this week of being a candidate for governor, he's been cast as that extremely rare Orange County Republican who can win a statewide office (let alone a primary).
But some GOP faithful are calling the former U.S. Treasury official something else entirely: a RINO, as in Republican in name only.
Keep in mind that those doing the name-calling are Tea Partiers who support Tim Donnelly, the Hesperia Republican who has also tossed his hat into the ring for the governor's office occupied by Democrat Jerry Brown.
Donnelly himself issued a fund-raising call this week that stated of Newport Beach's Kashkari:
In 2008, he voted for Barak Obama. Less than a year later, he worked for the Obama Administration as head of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to oversee the government bank bailout. He is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and admitted to the media that he couldn't name one single Republican in the California legislature that he would work with if elected Governor.
To hear Kashkari's campaign tell it, such was to be expected from Donnelly, and they pointed to this headline over an editorial in the Los Angeles Daily News: “Donnelly's Governor Run Overshadowed By Entrance of New GOP Contender.”
The campaign also released remarks from the likes of Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (“Neel brings a lot of things to the table.”) and Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney (“Kashkari enters the race with some strengths as a young, minority candidate fluent in economics and whose biography contradicts the stereotype of a Republican.”).
Meanwhile, the moderate Republican son of Indian immigrants and former managing director in charge of new investment initiatives at billions and billions-strong PIMCO* of Newport Beach tried to create some space between himself and Brown this week.
“Governor Brown may claim a California comeback, but the truth is that he has forgotten the millions of California families who are struggling,” Kashkari said in reaction to Brown's State of the State address. “Twenty-four percent of our fellow Californians live in poverty. Yet how many times did the Governor mention poverty in his 17-minute address? Not once. That is outrageous.”
Kashkari continued, “The state of the state is devastating for millions of Californians. Our schools are ranked 46th in the nation. Nearly 18 percent of Californians are out of work or stuck in part-time jobs. People don't want welfare. They want good jobs. Yet instead of doing the hard work of fixing these problems, Governor Brown is focused on touting record-high spending and building a crazy train that the state doesn't want and can't afford.
“Let there be no doubt: The status quo is unacceptable and we can't let Governor Brown get away with it.”
(*Correction: Kashkari left PIMCO in January 2013 to pursue public service, according to a campaign spokesperson.)