Politics, government and public life for Southern California

CA governor’s race: GOP candidates to debate Thursday

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In their only scheduled debate of the campaign, Republican State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and his GOP rival for governor, Neel Kashkari, will appear together on KFI 640AM for 90 minutes starting at 5 p.m. Thursday. The radio show will be broadcast live from the Ayres Hotel in Anaheim.

The hosts will be KFI personalities John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou. Until now, Kashkari has refused Donnelly’s challenge to a debate.

One of the two Republicans likely will place second in California’s new top two primary system and face incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in the November general election. The primary election is June 3.

RELATED: KPCC's coverage of the 2014 elections

Many in California’s Republican Party establishment back the more moderate Kashkari, an investment banker who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability from October, 2008 until May, 2009. In that capacity, he oversaw the bank bailout in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Wednesday, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former California Governor Pete Wilson and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in endorsing Kashkari.

“Neel’s focus on uniting Californians around fiscally conservative economic principles is the right message to help us grow the Republican Party in California and across the nation,” Rice said in a statement. “I’m proud to stand with him in this important race.”

But some conservatives in the party prefer Donnelly, who represents parts of San Bernardino County in the Assembly and is best known for his far-right positions on gun control and immigration. He is on probation for carrying a loaded gun into the Ontario Airport in 2012.

The California Republican Assembly, an activist group, and a number of county party organizations, including the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, have endorsed Donnelly.

At the same time, the conservative and influential Lincoln Club of Orange County this week issued a rare rebuke against him. “Assemblyman Donnelly is divisive and destructive,” a resolution by the board of directors said.

The club cited various remarks by Donnelly, including a 2006 speech in which he likened the immigration issue to a civil war, and his more recent accusations that Kashkari supports Islamic sharia law.

“He’s not the man to lead Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln.”

Donnelly has pointed to his success in the polls as evidence voters are responding to his message.

A Field Poll released last month showed 17 percent of likely voters favored Donnelly and two percent preferred Kashkari. Fifty-seven percent backed Brown.

Among Republican voters only, Kashkari trails Donnelly, 34 percent to three percent.

Donnelly, however, has little money going into the final weeks of the campaign. He has about $10,000 in cash on hand, while Kashkari has nearly $1 million. Kashkari poured $500,000 of his own money into his campaign last week.

That's allowed Kashkari to produce a number of online video ads for his campaign.

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