Leveling his most partisan attack yet in California’s gubernatorial race, Republican Neel Kashkari on Thursday accused Democrats around the nation of “actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids” while in California, he said, Gov. Jerry Brown has destroyed the middle class.
In a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, the former U.S. Treasury Department official faulted Brown for the state’s high unemployment, low educational attainment rankings and nation-high poverty rate.
“Jerry Brown’s legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California,” Kashkari said.
Kashkari’s remarks reflect an effort by Republicans to counter praise Brown is receiving for the state’s economic recovery. Despite improving financial conditions and a stabilization of the state budget, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate in California of 23.8 percent last year using a calculation that includes the cost of living.
Brown has avoided appearing before the Press Club in recent years, despite repeated invitations. Kashkari told reporters that while Brown heralds “the California comeback,” he “won’t come talk to you, because you know better.”
Kashkari, who has made education a focus of his campaign, said there are examples in which the “Democratic establishment” is “actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids,” criticizing the U.S. Justice Department’s involvement in a voucher program in Louisiana and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s policies on charters schools in his city.
Kashkari has not provided detailed policy proposals of his own, saying he will release education and jobs plans “soon.” He said he has not detailed his plans yet because “most voters aren’t paying attention to the election yet, and we want to roll these out when people are paying attention.”
Brown has a massive fundraising advantage and is far more widely known to voters than Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, the two main Republicans in the race. Brown, a third-term Democrat, also enjoys favorable public approval ratings in this Democratic-leaning state.
Brown’s political adviser Ace Smith, who attended the Press Club luncheon, said on Twitter that Kashkari’s speech was “one of the most empty and vapid addresses in memory – zero content, zero ideas.”
The speech comes ahead of the California Republican Party’s convention this month. Both Donnelly and Kashkari are expected to have heavy presences at the event, though neither is listed as a speaker.
A campaign committee calling itself “Taxpayers Supporting Kashkari for Governor 2014” has filed paperwork with the state. It lists Brent Lowder, a former executive director of the California Republican Party, as its principal officer but has reported no fundraising yet in the race.
Kashkari followed his speech Thursday with a visit to an after-school program in Sacramento, capping a week of appearances in the Central Valley.
Asked about difficulties he faces in the campaign, Kashkari said, “The hardest part is that right now I’m unknown.”