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Doug Lasken

Neel Kashkari for Governor?

Neel Kashkari for governor?

Another day, another L.A. Times report of GOP anxiety: “GOP fears fallout from a Brown victory,” which forecasts statewide GOP losses if Governor Brown wins a third term. Flashreport editor Jon Fleischman is quoted as saying that at least half a dozen Congressional seats could be determined by the race for governor.

As the article notes, the GOP front-runner had been Abel Maldonado, but he pulled out last week, leaving only Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly as the presumptive candidate. Donnelly is pro-life and pro-fracking, anti-gun control and anti-gay marriage, which means that he will not be the next governor of California. That might have been the end of the story, but there was a surprise in the article: a prospective GOP candidate with some potential to win. Neel Kashkari, who declared his candidacy Tuesday, is a Laguna Beach investment manager and former Treasury official who lead the TARP bank bailout under Bush and Obama. He also voted for Obama in 2008.

Those last facts, of course, do not give much encouragement that Kashkari can beat Brown. On the contrary, he’ll have to overcome that part of his resume. What makes Kashkari viable is this, per the L.A. Times piece: “[Kashkari ] is a fiscal conservative who supports gay marriage and abortion rights….”

This is more than enough to make me want to take a second look at Kashkari. If he becomes the GOP candidate for governor, it will send shock waves throughout the American political world, causing fevered re-calibrations of Democratic strategy from Sacramento to Washington. No more that 35-40% percent of the electorate opposes gay marriage and all abortion. Any candidate for California governor, of either party, who opposes both gay marriage and abortion will lose. A large part of the Democratic strategy for continued success is its monopoly, so far, on acceptance of gay marriage. If the GOP could refashion itself to accept gay marriage (and by extension homosexuality), the Party would be galvanized as never before, and its message of limited government and respect for entrepreneurship would be tremendously re-enforced.

The GOP has been quick to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in recent years, so it’s worth looking at what Kashkari needs to do to win.

Assuming the state party gets behind him, Kashkari should do the following:

  1. Add a forceful plank to his education platform opposing Obama’s Common Core Standards (CCS). Not only has Brown put the Governor’s office behind CCS- a mammoth slab of pork ($10 billion nationwide) devised to benefit publishers while it leaves public schools in chaos- he has arranged to pay the $2 billion cost to California from Prop. 30- in other words, he has taxed us to pay for standards California does not need, while teachers are being laid off. Kashkari will need a quick learning curve. He worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, which was notable for its lack of understanding of Common Core. Romney could have garnered tens of millions of votes by effectively opposing Common Core. Kashkari should not make the same mistake twice.
  2. Kashkari needs to reach out to Hispanic voters with concrete issues. Attempts to create solidarity through general sentiments of “limited government,” etc., will not do it. One way to interest Hispanic voters is to talk about their children’s education. I suggest bilingual education, a darling of Democrats, as an issue. If Mr. Kashkari is in favor of immigrant children learning English, which is overwhelmingly what parents of immigrant children want, then he should say so, and call “bilingual education” by its real name: “native language only instruction.” If Party leaders fret over what Hispanic voters will think of opposing bilingual education, here’s my reassurance: in over 30 years of teaching, I have never met a Hispanic parent who wanted his/her child to prioritize Spanish over English instruction. They all want their kids to learn English.
  3. Kashkari needs to explain why he voted for Obama. In fact, I’d also like to know why it’s known that he voted for Obama. Did he release that information himself? If so, why? He should also explain his views as to why none of the people who caused the recession of 2008 are in jail, and why, instead, their companies were bailed out by the federal government. Of course the Bailout is not a state issue, but Californians need to understand Kashkari’s past actions, including his role in giving Obama a free-pass on Wall Street.

Assuming Kashkari can define himself adequately, and can master the strong arguments against Brown that will be necessary (they do exist), he is already the most viable GOP candidate. The state Party could, in fact, try this approach for selecting its candidate for governor of CA: find a candidate who is in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and take it from there.

Doug Lasken is a retired LA Unified teacher, recently returned to coach debate, a freelancer and education consultant. Read his blog at and write him at