Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly’s campaign manager, Jennifer Kerns, quit the campaign Wednesday, just days before the California Republican Party gathers for its biannual convention.
The announcement is a setback for the Twin Peaks assemblyman, a tea party favorite in an uphill race to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate said Wednesday that he was ‘already looking for somebody else” before Kerns announced she was quitting the campaign.
“I knew it was going to happen,” he said. “It was just, the timing caught me by surprise.”
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When Kerns announced earlier in the day that she was quitting the campaign, Donnelly said, “That’s news to me.”
In an interview Wednesday night, the Twin Peaks assemblyman said, “I was already looking for somebody else. It just wasn’t a good fit there, for either of us.”
He called her departure a “mutual” decision, saying, “I don’t know that my brand of grassroots suited her expectations of what a gubernatorial campaign would be like.”
Kerns said in a prepared statement that a filmmaker who produced campaign video ads for Donnelly has also left “making this now two top strategic advisers who have left.”
Donnelly’s campaign has struggled to keep pace with fundraising early in the campaign. He has raised about $475,000, less than half as much as GOP rival Neel Kashkari and just a fraction of the more than $18 million Brown has amassed.
But Donnelly, the Legislature’s most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate, is expected to have a major presence at the Burlingame convention.
Earlier this week he pressed Kashkari for a debate at the event. Party officials and Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, dismissed the invitation, though Kashkari, Donnelly and a third candidate, Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, have been afforded speaking spots.
Kerns had been rumored to be leaving the campaign for days but said Monday that she was still on the team. In her prepared statement Wednesday, Kerns said she was “proud to have taken a candidate from the launch of a campaign as an unknown, underdog candidate to frontrunner status in the polls, as well as having cleared the field of our closest GOP competitor,” a reference to former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who dropped out of the race in January.
Donnelly had made Kerns a significant part of his campaign, In January he posted an online video celebrating her promotion to campaign manager.
“They say beside every good leader is a great woman,” Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. “I’ve got two.”
Kashkari adviser Aaron McLear declined to comment on Kerns’ departure.