One candidate is trying everything he can to get your attention. The other isn’t campaigning for himself at all. Welcome to the 2014 California governor’s race, where Democrat Jerry Brown is doing the bare minimum in his bid for a record fourth term and Republican Neel Kashkari is doing as much as his campaign bank account will allow.
Here’s how Neel Kashkari is campaigning for governor:
In a boxing gym in Sacramento, Kashkari works up a sweat practicing his punches while surrounded by kids working on their own skills.
Kashkari says there’s a good reason he’s spending precious campaign time in a room full of people too young to vote. “Because I’m focused on education. I’m focused on fighting on behalf of the kids of California. The kids that Jerry Brown has turned his back on.”
And here’s how Jerry Brown is seeking re-election:
Brown, speaking at a Stanford conference on water last week: “Well, water. Big topic. Hard to talk about. Complicated….”
In his TV ads, Kashkari takes hard shots at the governor. “Jerry Brown betrayed our kids to protect his donors. When I’m governor, I’ll fight for kids, not against them,” he says.
Brown’s ads, on the other hand, aren’t even about his re-election campaign. “Prop 1 saves water to prepare us for drought. Prop 2 sets aside money to prepare us for economic storms. Vote yes on 1 and 2.”
During his campaign, Kashkari has made a series of moves designed to get people talking about his campaign. He spent a week living “homeless” in Fresno to draw attention to California’s poverty rate. And he held an event letting people smash toy trains to show his opposition to the state’s High Speed Rail project.
Kashkari says his methods are working. “There’s no question that Governor Brown has a massive resource advantage relative to my campaign. So when I slept for a week homeless, I was trying to showcase, that when Jerry Brown says we’re back, what about the 24 percent of people living in poverty today?”
Brown didn’t have any campaign events until this week. Instead, he’s been popping up every once in a while to give a policy speech, like at Stanford.
He’ll throw out a quick line about running for re-election…again… “This is not just for a one-term governor, this is really the work of a four-term governor.”
Brown never mentions Kashkari. Instead, there’s the occasional history lesson to promote this year's Prop 1, the water bond, and Prop 2, the rainy day fund: “The California Water Project, which was Proposition 1 on the 1960 ballot, won by a very tiny margin…
"Proposition 1 passed then, and I’m confident that Proposition 1 will pass again this November. We have a second Proposition 1. It’s doing a little better than the first Proposition 1.”
“Well, it’s the difference between something and nothing," says political analyst Leo McElroy as he looks at the two campaigns for governor this year and says Kashkari is in a “terrible situation.”
"Rrunning in a race where you are not even endorsed by some of your party’s nominees; and where the polls say that you are a sure loser. That’s enough to discourage almost anybody. Neel Kashkari is running as if he’s not discouraged.”
McElroy says California hasn’t seen a re-election campaign like Brown’s since 1946. That’s when Governor Earl Warren used an antiquated system called “cross-filing” to win both the Republican and Democratic nominations.
“He is in that wonderful position that some elected officials find themselves in – believing he’s not challenged and he can use his efforts to try to bolster other candidates or other issues – in this case, primarily ballot measures,” McElroy says.
Kashkari isn’t backing down. He just gave his campaign an extra million dollars and launched a new TV ad and website attacking Brown.
As for the governor, he holds a 16-point lead in the latest poll. “This is not a guy who loves campaigning – and so this time, he’s got the ultimate excuse of not having to,” McElroy says.