Could the California Republican Party rally behind a virtually unknown Indian candidate for Governor in 2014?
By Scott Lay, The Nooner
DATA, THE GOP, and NEEL KASHKARI: The Public Policy Institute of California yesterday released “California Voter and Party Profiles” that looks at who is registered and who is likely to vote. Here are some key points:
- As of February 2013, the share of California voters who say they are registered as independent (also known as “decline to state” or “no party preference”) is 20.9%—up from 15.3% in 2003.
- The share of Democrats is 43.9%, similar to 2003 (44.4%), but the share of Republicans has declined from 35.2% in 2003 to 28.9% in 2013.
- In fact, there are roughly 100,000 fewer Republicans today than there were 10 years ago, even as the registered population has grown by 2.9 million voters.
- California’s 18.1 million voters constitute 75.7% of eligible adults, up from 70.3% of eligible adults in 2003.
- Our surveys indicate that among those we consider most likely to vote, 45% are Democrats, 32% are Republicans, and 19% are independents.
- Although 44% of the state’s adult population is non-Hispanic white and 33% is Latino, our surveys indicate that 62% of those most likely to vote are white and only 17% are Latino.
On Wednesday, I wrote about the California GOP’s conundrum of needing to win a shift in the likely voter base by having a charismatic statewide elected official while also winning a handful of key legislative seats to take back the Democrats’ (eventual) supermajority in both houses. In it, I shared Political Data Inc.’s current scoring of next November’s general election as 49% DemPlus, 36% RepPlus, and 14% other, which means Republicans to win statewide need to capture every vote that is up in the air. PPIC’s profile of voters echos that.
Again, DemPlus and RepPlus try to measure voters who are very likely to consistently vote with a party despite being registered independent or with a “third” party. For example, here in San Francisco, there are census blocks where you can with great certainty predict that independents will vote Democrat, particularly in a top-two scenario. They may be registered NPP because Nancy Pelosi is too conservative. Similarly, you can find census blocks like that on the Republican side in Palm Desert, where I was yesterday.
Republicans should not feel helpless, and Democrats can not be complacent. Remember that we have alternated governors between parties for the last 23 years and, if you ignore the back-to-back wins of Deukmejian and Wilson, we have alternated parties since Goodwin Knight was elected in 1953.
Of the current possible field for governor, one candidate could start that rebuilding process, and few people have heard of him. Neel Kashkari worked in the Dept. of Treasury under George W. Bush and stayed on to manage the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) during the early period of the Obama administration. Following his time in Washington, he came to California and took a job with fixed income manager PIMCO. His major challenge is lack of roots in California–he first lived here in 2009 after DC. He spent some time in Nevada County before a divorce, after which he moved to Orange County, where he now lives with his dogs Winslow and Newsome (look out Sutter!).
Kashkari provides a fresh, libertarian face. He signed an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage in the Perry v. Hollingsworth case. In a top-two situtation, he might be able to pull enough independent and moderate GOP votes to earn a spot on the general election ballot. But, is it worth being a sacrificial lamb in 2014 for the GOP as part of a long-term rebuild plan and would the party give him a future chance even if he loses by 10 points or more?
That depends. GOP leaders want neither Tim Donnelly nor Abel Maldonado on the ballot, particularly because they want the focus on economic rather than social issues, and Maldonado’s campaign against realignment has been undermined by Brown’s game of hardball with the federal courts on prisons.
They very much want a fresh face and, in particular, one who can open the pocketbooks of currently reluctant donors. Kashkari may be able to do that, particularly of business interests that know Jerry Brown will win reelection but see Kashkari as contributing to the debate and keeping Brown in the middle. First-generation Kashkari, whose parents are from India and is a Hindu, would provide a sharp contrast and likely could make significant inroads in Silicon Valley. Further, as we have seen with former congressional candidate Ricky Gill and CD17 candidate Ro Khanna–there is lots of South Asian political money out there and Kashkari has to be seen as part of the same generation of emerging Indo-American political leaders as Gill and Khanna.
Kashkari has a non-campaign campaign website, where his enormous dogs get major play.