Visiting San Diego for the first time as Gov. Jerry Brown’s November foe, GOP hopeful Neel Kashkari repeated Monday night that he has called for 10 debates. And if one of the duels takes up climate change, the political novice has a ready answer.
“I don’t think that the fires we’re experiencing can be linked to climate change,” Kashkari told Times of San Diego, responding to a query about comments Brown made amid the recent wildfires.
“We’ve had fires, we’ve had droughts … over many, many decades,” Kashkari said. “Unfortunately, both President Obama and Jerry Brown are conflating two different issues, and the solutions to the two different issues are very different.”
In his first major public appearance since finishing second in the June primary, Kashkari said Brown could “absolutely” be beaten in November if Republicans stay united.
His unity reference came only minutes after San Diego County Republican Chairman Tony Krvaric noted that the local GOP made no endorsement for governor.
“There was no consensus on the committee,” Krvaric told 200 people at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center in Mission Valley. But he hailed Kashkari for getting 27.91 percent of the vote in San Diego County while winning 19.5 percent statewide. Brown won 54.4 percent of the statewide vote.
Kashkari, a 40-year-old former businessman and son of Indian immigrants, saluted the San Diegans for their sweeping success in the June 3 election.
“You did it with [Mayor] Kevin Faulconer,” said the Orange County resident. “You did it [despite] a huge Democratic registration advantage. … You crushed the Labor-funded Democrats. If you can do it in San Diego, [Republicans] can absolutely do it statewide.”
Known for his shiny bald head and TV commercials showing him taking a hatchet to “Jerry Brown’s crazy train,” among other pledged cuts, Kashkari said he decided to run for governor after seeing Democrats in November 2012 win supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly.
He said he traveled to Dallas in December 2012 to meet with his former patron — George W. Bush. The 43rd president, contrary to Kashkari’s expectations, encouraged his run for governor — noting his own underdog race against popular Gov. Ann Richards.
Kashkari also depicted himself as being “one of the key people in the Treasury Department” who helped stabilize the economy after the 2008 crash.
He recalled how Brown had challenged GOP opponent Meg Whitman to 10 debates before the 2010 election (ending up with three), and decided to take the same page from the playbook.
“He’s not going to be able to ignore me,” he said of Brown — whom he called the rich son of a governor and out of touch with average Californians.
With a letter Monday morning calling for debates, Kashkari said, he would make Brown “answer for the state of the economy. People will see he has no answers.”
The Sacramento Bee reported that at least one town hall-style meeting might be joined by formal debates in Sacramento, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Central Valley.
A spokesman for Brown said the governor would weigh the request, writing the Bee: “We’ll certainly consider debating providing we can work out the scheduling and details to offer something substantive and worthwhile to voters.”
In a 10-minute talk that ended with a standing ovation, Kashkari told the San Diegans: “If we are all united, we can absolutely take California back and defeat Jerry Brown.”
Earlier, county GOP Treasurer Gary Felien noted the party has “$500,000 in the bank to beat up on the Democrats all the way to November.”
Felien, an Oceanside councilman, told a crowd that included dozens of local officeholders and candidates: “You got to come in for free, but that doesn’t mean you can leave for free.”