After a fierce primary battle against Tea Party candidate Tim Donnelly, GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari will face incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown in the November general election, and he told AirTalk on Thursday that he knows he's in for a tough fight.
"The odds are clearly tough, but here's the thing: I'm running for governor because I want to rebuild the middle class of California," Kashkari told AirTalk. "We're literally ranked 47th out of 50 states for jobs. We're 46th for education, and we're No. 1 in poverty. I don't think that's right. I want to put people back to work and make sure our kids are getting a good education."
Many California Republicans consider Kashkari's primary victory over Donnelly a success for the state’s GOP, arguing that Kashkari’s more mainstream values give him a better chance against a Democratic governor in a blue state.
But Kashkari still has many hurdles to overcome in the race against Brown: He spent a great deal of his own money during the primary campaign and will be running against an incumbent with money in the bank and a high approval rating.
Kashkari said his financial plans for California will help with his appeal to voters during the November election, but could it really be enough to unseat Jerry Brown? What are his plans for the November race?
What are your recommendations for creating jobs in California?
"Regulations every year are getting bigger and more onerous. I don't want to eliminate all regulations. I just want to streamline them, get rid of the old ones that are no longer serving us well, modernize it so that our businesses and our farms can compete all around the world. We don't have to be cheaper than Texas to beat Texas, but we need to be competitive, and right now Sacramento is working against job creation instead of enhancing job creation."
How would you change CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act?
"Even Gov. Brown knows that CEQA needs to be reformed. So when he wanted to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings, he said let's give them an expedited, streamlined review; otherwise, it's going to take years and millions of dollars in litigation. Well, Gov. Brown, if that expedited review is good for your pet project, why don't we make that the standard for all Californians? So my plan is to take Gov. Brown's own expedited review, which he gave to his pet project, and make it the new standard for everyone in California."
If you were to do that, wouldn't you open up the door for certain environmental problems?
"It's about finding the right balance. Right now the pendulum is swung so far, it's working families that are hurt by this. Sacramento is lousy at a lot of things. Sacramento is really good at one thing: creating poverty. Sacramento today is in the poverty creation business, and every time another factory leaves California, it's the men and women that used to work in that factory whose lives are turned upside down. People don't want welfare; they just want a good job, and I want to give them that chance."
With the odds of your winning so slim, what is your ambition here?
"I always talk about two goals. One is winning the governorship to fix the state. Goal No. 2 is to help rebuild the California Republican Party around a positive, inclusive message. My vision for the Republican Party is the biggest tent you've ever seen in your life, where everyone is invited in. Every ethnic group, every socioeconomic background. And the issues that unite us are the principles of hard work, jobs, personal responsibility. I think that we can grow the Republican Party by bringing everyone together. As the son of immigrants, a kid from a middle class background, I grew up bagging groceries and mowing lawns. I think I can deliver that."
Tell us a bit about your background so we can get to know you better:
"My parents came here about 50 years ago from India. My family wasn't wealthy, but my parents were educated. They really prioritized education for me and for my sister. I studied engineering, and I moved to Los Angeles to become an aerospace engineer at TRW in Redondo Beach, went back to business school, went into business and finance and then worked in Washington, D.C.
"I think I've lived the American dream. There's no other country in the world where the son of immigrants, like me, could play such a big role in the federal government or become the nominee for governor of California. This is a great country, but you've got to get that good education to open those doors. Today, our schools in California are ranked 46th. I want every kid in California to have the same shot that I had that starts with a good education, then getting good job and a chance to work hard."