Neel Kashkari, who managed the $700 billion rescue of the U.S. banking system, said he’s running for governor of California in a bid to unseat Democrat Jerry Brown.
Kashkari, 40, joins state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite, in the Republican race to oust Brown, 75. Brown has yet to declare his candidacy. If he does, all three would compete in an open primary June 3, where the top two vote-getters advance to the general election in November, regardless of party.
“Today, the gift of a good education and the opportunity it creates are out of reach for millions of struggling Californians,” Kashkari said in a speech to a business group in Sacramento. “That’s why I’m running for governor, to create jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education. That’s it. That’s my platform.”
Public opinion polls show Brown may be difficult to beat in a state where Democrats hold a 15 percentage-point advantage over Republicans. Brown has been credited with piloting the world’s 10th-largest economy from a $26 billion deficit when he took office three years ago to the biggest surplus in more than a decade.
A former Goldman Sachs vice president in San Francisco, Kashkari was 35 years old when then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asked him to manage the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The U.S. banks were on the brink of collapse after investing in risky derivatives, a disaster that could have led to a meltdown of the U.S. economy.
He left the Treasury Department in 2009 and took a job running the global equities division at Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond fund, based in Newport Beach, California. He quit a year ago.
Kashkari’s announcement came the same day that the San Francisco Chronicle reported he failed to vote in 10 of 23 elections in which he was eligible since registering to vote in California in 1998. A spokesman, Aaron McLear, said Kashkari voted in seven of the eight most recent general elections since moving to California.
“He should have done better,” McLear said in an interview.
Kashkari spent the past year meeting with almost 700 potential donors from around the U.S. and sought policy advice on prisons, education and the economy from such Republican luminaries as former president Bush, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Ohio Governor John Kasich, ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Kashkari, who has said he voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, favors the right of women to choose abortion and backs same-sex marriage. He is critical of Brown’s support for building a $68 billion high-speed rail line and opposed Brown’s 2012 voter initiative that temporarily raised income and sales taxes. He called Brown’s latest spending plan a “lazy man’s budget.”
Brown, who has raised more than $15 million for a possible re-election run, defeated Meg Whitman, the former EBay Inc. chief executive officer who now runs Hewlett-Packard Co., in 2010.
Brown’s approval rating was 55 percent in a University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll released Nov. 11, his highest since returning to the governor’s office after two terms more than 30 years earlier.