GOP Establishment Cheers Neel Kashkari’s Primary Win in California Governor’s Race

Neel Kashkari speaking at victory celebration.
Neel Kashkari speaking at victory celebration.

That sound you hear is establishment Republicans exhaling, from Eureka to Yucaipa to Washington, D.C.

By emerging from the primary scrum to face incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari hasn’t greatly shortened the long odds against a Republican winning the California governorship in November. But he has averted the disaster that many in the party feared if Tim Donnelly had become the GOP nominee.

Correctly or not, Donnelly’s undiluted, give-no-quarter conservatism was seen as a toxin that would poison the chances of Republicans up and down the ballot; not just those running for constitutional office — several of whom already face steeply uphill contests — but candidates in some potentially competitive house and legislative races, as well.

The damage, many in the party feared, would linger well past the fall and spread far beyond California’s borders.

The state GOP is a wreck, steadily losing hearts and minds since Republican Gov. Pete Wilson won reelection in 1994, thanks in good part to his provocative targeting of illegal immigrants and, later, affirmative action. The incendiary rhetoric sent his party’s reputation up in flames, not just within the growing Latino community but among more moderate white, suburban and young voters as well.

Donnelly picked up where Wilson left off and, on guns and other issues, took the GOP to a much further extreme. The former governor, who is still viewed affectionately within his party, was among those who notably condemned the San Bernardino-area congressman, calling him unfit to serve. Behind the scenes, Wilson played an important role in drawing other prominent Republicans to back Kashkari.

Shut out of statewide office, largely impotent in Sacramento and saddled with a retrograde image, the GOP probably faces years of rebuilding in this, the nation’s largest, most important state. (With 55 electoral votes, California, by itself, offers more than one-fifth the total needed to win the White House.)

Kashkari’s candidacy, at the very least, offers the party a place to start.

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The Los Angeles Times

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