Letter from California: ‘California Dreamin’ for a new governor?

Now that California’s June Primary is over and the dust has settled a bit, what are the chances of California unseating its Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., aka “Moonbeam” and electing a conservative Republican?

Brown is running for an inconceivable fourth term as Governor of California.  It’s hard to believe, but Californians keep electing Governor Moonbeam despite all the jokes made about his nickname. 

His nickname dates back to a time when California, under the leadership of Brown between 1975 and 1983, led the nation in economy and environmental awareness.  The name was created by a Chicago columnist, who said that Brown was attracting “the moonbeam vote,” referring to young, idealistic and nontraditional voters.

Since many things have changed about California’s economy since then, has Brown’s ability to woo the “moonbeam vote” away from the Republicans changed?

If this past primary with its low voter turnout is any indication, Brown should sail into his fourth term without any strong headwinds coming from Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, who will face-off with Brown in the upcoming general election.

The past primary on June 3 ended with Brown clearly in the lead with voters and Neel Kashkari, a distant second.  Tim Donnelly, the once favored conservative Republican candidate came in third with a dismal 14.9 percent.

Is it impossible for Neel Kashkari to come back strong and topple Brown’s well-established reign?  No, but something drastic would need to happen for that to occur.

Initially, Neel Kashkari was not the favorite to win the primary.  In fact, Tim Donnelly, the Republican,who founded the California branch of the Minuteman border patrol, which is made up of volunteers who search for people attempting to enter the country illegally across the U.S.- Mexico border, and right-wing conservative was touted as a possible candidate to win the primary, becoming the person to go head-to-head with Brown in the general election.

Kashkari was endorsed by Republican congressman Darrell Issa, Condoleezza Rice, Jeb Bush, and former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. 

Donnelly, on the other hand, was seen by the Republican Party as too conservative for this upcoming election and the current political focus on immigration reform. 

Karl Rove was clearly on Kashkari’s side and not Donnelly’s, when in April, Karl Rove told a Sacramento crowd that if California Republicans “have to lose to Jerry Brown,” it should at least be someone who won’t harm future votes with Latinos.  An unmistakable message, perhaps, as to which way the Republicans are intending to move in the upcoming general elections from a Congressional standpoint.  Since Donnelly is anti-immigration and pro-gun rights, he clearly doesn’t fit in with the GOP establishment strategy. 

Donnelly also made a fatal error right before the primary when he accused his opponent, Neel Kashkari of being a proponent of Sharia law.  A statement he later had to recount because Kashkari is Hindu and not a Muslim.  It was an embarrassment to Donnelly’s campaign to say the least.

Kashkari appears to be a GOP establishment’s dream because he is a mixed bag when it comes to knowing how he will vote on an issue. 

He voted for Obama in 2008 and was even asked to stay on for a short period of time, after Obama took office, for his financial expertise.  In 2013, he voted against California’s Proposition 32 which would have weakened unions’ political influence.

He views himself as a libertarian and a “different kind of Republican,” when it comes to social issues.  He is pro-choice, a proponent for same-sex marriage having voted against Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, and believes in a path to legal citizenship.

He also believes that climate change is real and surprisingly favors fracking.  He owns four guns but supports waiting periods and background checks before purchasing a firearm.  He went so far to say about guns during his campaign that, “If you’re a single issue voter, and you just want someone to give you a full capacity assault rifle magazine, God bless you, you can go vote for somebody else.”

On the other hand, he voted for Romney in 2012, worked for George Bush in assisting with the TARP program, describes himself as “a free-market Republican,” opposes Obama’s economic agenda, supports cutting business regulations, and wants to make changes to Obamacare by citing his own difficulties in signing up in California.  Additionally, he voted against California’s Proposition 30, which raised taxes in the state.

Inevitably, Kashkari’s political views may not matter because it appears that Jerry Brown, who won 54.1% of the votes to Kashkari’s 19.5% will remain undefeated in November.

California voters seem to be bound and determined to repeat the predominant Democrat theme in their state.  After all, during this past primary, California also voted for Sandra Fluke, the poster child for free birth control, to advance to a run-off in the State Senate against another Democrat in her district (there were no Republicans running) and voted for Democrat Leland Yee, a man who dropped out of the race before the primary, after being accused of conspiracy to run guns and political corruption.  Yee came in third with over 320,000 votes even though he wasn’t running. 

So, with these voter anomalies coming out of the recent primary, it’s probably safe to say that California had better get ready for four more years of “Moonbeam.”

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