Vote-by-mail ballots are already being cast and Election Day is less than two weeks away. And with time running short, Republican challenger Neel Kashkari is stepping up his attacks on Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
Down in the polls and way down in the fundraising game, Kashkari isn't backing down. He just donated an extra million dollars to his campaign to broadcast a controversial TV ad featuring a drowning child, whom Kashkari pulls from a swimming pool. In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Kashkari says the ad focuses on Brown’s decision to appeal a court ruling that declared California’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws unconstitutional.
"Jerry Brown betrayed the kids. He’s fighting them in court today," he says. "I wanted the most powerful image I could come up with to show that Jerry Brown had a choice. He decided not to rescue kids asking for a rescue. Instead he backed the unions which have funded his political career."
Kashkari compared Brown’s move to Watergate.
"A lifetime of public service for Richard Nixon has been overshadowed by one terrible decision he made at the end of his presidency," he says. "Jerry Brown has had a lifetime of public service. But when the neediest kids of California, black and brown kids, ask him for help, he didn’t help them. He fought them, he betrayed them. And I’m going to make sure everyone in California knows what he’s done."
Kashkari admitted Brown had not done anything criminal in appealing the teacher tenure ruling.
"But betraying needy kids who are begging for a fair chance at a good education? It may as well be criminal," he says.
In a statement, the Brown campaign says Kashkari’s ad would be funny if it weren’t so "offensive and disturbing."
Kashkari is staying positive about the support he’s gotten from his party. That’s despite the lack of endorsements from two other major GOP candidates. Pete Peterson, who's running for Secretary of State, and Ashley Swearengin, who's running for Controller have both declined to endorse Kashkari. But Kashkari suggests that no candidate ever gets full support from their political party.
"I’ve got Democrats who are supporting me. They’re not supporting Jerry Brown. So Jerry Brown doesn’t have 100 percent support either. That’s the nature of politics," he says. "But again, the fact that I’ve got the grassroots behind me and all of the national leaders of our party behind me, I feel terrific."
Kashkari has said his campaign for California governor is about two things: creating jobs and improving the state’s education system. But as the election draws closer, he’s making his views on other issues known too.
Kashkari balked at the idea floated by some legislative Democrats of providing healthcare for undocumented immigrants in California.
"We need to take care of people here in California," he says. "So there are a lot of things that we’d all like to do, but we need to prioritize and pushing Washington on federal immigration reform for the nation has got to be where we start as it relates to immigrants."
Kashkari says Brown should be pushing Washington on federal immigration reform. Brown did sign several immigration-related bills this year, including one that allows undocumented students to receive student loans and another that allows undocumented immigrants to apply for professional licenses in the state.
Kashkari says he supports Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion dollar water bond. He also supports Proposition 2, the rainy day fund. Brown negotiated both those measures.