Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

PPIC: Californians Reject GOP Views and Wannabes

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014


The latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California has some rather bad news for GOP Chairman Jim Brulte and his party:

Californians pretty much like the job Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is doing, they favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, don’t want restrictions on women’s access to abortion, would like to see more restrictions on guns, while gun-toting, anti-immigrant, pro-life anti-choice Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is their leading candidate for governor.

Rancho Cucamonga, we have a problem.

A slim majority of adults – 53% — even favors Brown’s proposed $68 billion high-speed rail proposal and 60% back the $11.1 billion plan for state water projects.

Meanwhile Neel Kashkari, the Republican who has raised the most campaign cash in the governor’s race – and the one GOP candidate most in tune with popular statewide opinion – draws about 2% of the vote in the June First Cut Election© (it’s not really a primary), compared to 10% for the dangerous Mr. Donnelly.

Gov. Gandalf, meanwhile, is pulling 47% overall, including 78% of the Democrats, 37% of the independents and even 15% of the Republicans. In other words, he’d make the run-off if only Republicans were to vote.

Worse, for the Republicans, without lifting a campaign finger (or mentioning Cesar Chavez or Mother Teresa), Brown is pulling 58% among Latinos, with second place going to Donnelly at 8%. If Latinos find out he’s been out on Minuteman patrols on the California-Mexican border, that will probably drop to about 1%.

At this rate, the only chance Republicans have of doing well in November is if every Democrat in the Legislature gets carted away by the FBI. Oh wait, they’re already doing that…

approvalFun with numbers: Brown’s approval ratings were not bad: 49% among all adults and 52% among likely voters. That’s down somewhat from a high of 58% in January but about where it was last March. While 67% of Democrats and 49% of independents approve of Brown’s performance, nearly a third – 32% — of Republicans likewise approve of the way he’s handling his job as governor.

President Obama’s approval rating is 52% among all adults and 49% among likely voters – not great for such a blue state, but not terrible, either.

The lead item in PPIC’s analysis of their poll was water.

“A record-high share of Californians say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of the state, and nearly all residents say they have reduced their water use in response to the drought,” PPIC reported. “Asked about the supply of water in their area, 55 percent of residents say it is a big problem (20% somewhat of a problem, 23% not much of a problem). In contrast, 44 percent of Californians expressed this view in December 2009, during another drought. Today, majorities across regions characterize their area’s water supply as a big problem, with residents in the Central Valley (65%) most likely to do so (55% Orange/San Diego, 54% Inland Empire, 52% San Francisco Bay Area, 51% Los Angeles). Most (60%) also say the water supply in their area will be inadequate 10 years from now.”

PPIC also reported on:

fast_train_CAHigh Speed Rail — Californians were asked about another big project: a high-speed rail system. In 2008, voters passed a $10 billion state bond for its planning and construction. Today, when read a description of the system and its $68 billion price tag, 53 percent favor it and 42 percent oppose it. Likely voters are less supportive (45% favor, 50% oppose). Majorities in the San Francisco Bay Area (63%), Central Valley (57%), Orange/San Diego (54%), and Los Angeles (52%) are in favor. Inland Empire residents are divided (45% favor, 46% oppose). When opponents of high-speed rail are asked how they would feel if the cost were lower, support rises (69% adults, 60% likely voters). Asked about high-speed rail’s importance, 35 percent of adults and 29 percent of likely voters say it is very important to the future quality of life and state’s economic vitality.

abetterlife2Immigration – A record-high 65 percent of Californians say that immigrants are a benefit to the state because of their hard work and job skills rather than a burden because they use public services (27%). State residents are far less divided on this question than when PPIC first asked it in April 1998 (46% benefit, 42% burden). On immigration reform, an overwhelming majority of adults (86%) and likely voters (83%) favor providing a path to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally who meet certain requirements—including waiting a certain period of time, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks, and learning English. Even  among Californians who say immigrants are a burden there is majority support (72%) for a path to citizenship

Abortion – A solid majority of adults (69%) say the government should not interfere with access to abortion, and about a quarter (26%) say government should pass more laws restricting its availability. Mainline Protestants (81%) and adults with no religion (88%) are more likely than Catholics (58%) and evangelical Protestants (50%) to say that government should not interfere with abortion access.

Environmental laws — A majority (55%) say that stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. Fewer (38%) say that this type of regulation costs too many jobs and hurts the economy.

Gun control — A majority (56%) say the government does not do enough to regulate access to guns. Fewer (37%) say the government goes too far in restricting the rights of citizens to own guns.

PPIC surveyed a random sample of 1,702 California adults March 11-18 on landline and cell phones, including 1,380 respondents who said they were registered voters and 936 identified as likely voters. The overall margin of error was +/- 3.6% and for likely voters it was +/- 4.7%.

Why Hacks, Flacks Are Cheering Brown’s “Librarian”

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

lucasNot since then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown named Jacques Barzaghi director of that city’s Craft and Cultural Affairs Department has Gandalf made an appointment so intriguing as California State Librarian-designate Greg Lucas.

“I cracked up when I heard the news,” said one media veteran.

“Then I realized April Fool’s isn’t ‘til next week.”

Lucas, 55, is a longtime Capitol newspaper hack reporter, editor and blogger, trendy restaurant critic and public access TV star. Nominated Tuesday to be the 24th state librarian, a $142,968-a-year post, he is, a Brown flack said, “an independent thinker, a sharp writer and a keen observer.”

Several other adjectives come to mind, but hey, the guy deserves at least a brief honeymoon.

The man for the job: The appointment, according to the By God L.A. Times, predictably was greeted with outrage and derision by, you know, professionals in the field. Influential members of the far-flung Calbuzz Political Community and Pajama-Clad Troll Brigade, however, applauded Brown’s unconventional move, if only in hopes of witnessing a political spectacle when lawmakers whom Lucas has dissed for years take up his confirmation in the state Senate.

A voracious reader, at least when his lips are moving while perusing a book written in the phonetic alphabet, Lucas plans to overcome his lack of technical skills, Brown’s spokeshuman said, by taking classes “through San Jose State University’s library science program.”  Go Spartans!

And at a time when digital technology is ever-more important to libraries, his background and knowledge of Fortran, Videotex and the TRS-80 ideally equip him to lead the library into the 20th during some part of the 21st century. We also hear he’s learning Word.

frank Coombs_thumb_thumbThe line of history: As every school child knows, Lucas would not be the first state librarian who lacks a traditional background for the gig; Frank L. Coombs, California’s 14th librarian, who served from, uh, 1898 to 1899, had no formal education in library science. Yet Coombs, a former Napa County District Attorney, was a strong leader who specialized in tracking down malefactors with overdue books, some as much as five years late. You could look it up.

Lucas also is likely to be less controversial than James W. Denver, our second state librarian (1853-55), who fought a duel while in office with Edward Gilbert, editor of the San Francisco Alta California. Denver shot and killed Gilbert; although dueling had been outlawed in the state, the Bay Area news hound was so unpopular that no one in law enforcement took action against the sharp-shooting bookman.

What his colleagues say: Using the crack reporting skills we honed through years of gathering instant, totally superficial reaction quotes on political stories, we swiftly rounded up the top 10 reasons Capitol hands of all stripes favor Brown’s selection of Lucas:

10-With new boss out daily for four-hour lunches, library staff now free to snooze in stacks.

9-Governor eyes general fund revenue bump from librarian’s tripling of late return fines.

8-Lucas vows to meet incessant public demand for copies of world’s shortest volume: “The Collected Wisdom of Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

7-New chief’s journalism chops portend 50 percent decrease in pompous media quotes by windbag ex-librarian Kevin Starr.

6-Fireworks loom when Ron Calderon briefly reappears to shake down Library First Lady Donna Lucas during confirmation vote.

5-Lucas vows to meet incessant public demand for copies of world’s second shortest volume: “The Collected Humor of Dianne Feinstein.”

4-State Librarian micro-targets campaign donations amid special interest bid to rename library after Willie Brown.

lib-gillis3-GOP hopes appointment will slash teacher union’s power, as CTA consultant Gale Kaufman can’t stop laughing long enough to get up off the floor.

2-Democrats’ secret plan: major books-on-tape acquisition featuring rare boxed set of John Burton swearing for four hours straight.

1-California certain to become world’s largest repository of Grateful Dead bootlegs and CD collections.

We’re behind you all the way, bro.

“60 Minutes”: DiFi’s Mystery Drone Was A Toy

Friday, March 21st, 2014

difidroneSecret Agent Senator:  Not since Dianne Feinstein’s Senate freshman year, when she rhetorically cold cocked Republican Larry “Wide Stance” Craig over gun control, has she won such attention as that prompted by her recent attack on the CIA.

From Rand Paul to Patrick Leahy, and on every broadcast and cable outfit in the land, DiFi earned plaudits for her takedown of Langley spooks for allegedly hacking computers of her intelligence committee staffers, in search of data crucial to the panel’s probe of Bush-era use of torture.

Fair enough, but what about the crucial issue of the mysterious Presidio Terrace drone?

While many media mavens left and right, large and small, gushed over Feinstein’s big spy-vs-spy speech, they looked away from the cuckoo claim by California’s senior Senator that she was snooped upon by a drone while in the considerable comfort of her San Francisco manse.

Not so “60 Minutes.”

At long last, two months after we started yammering about Senator DiFi’s phony fable regarding her imaginary friend the drone, the tick-tick-tick show became the one and only one MSM organization with the guts and grit to throw down the gauntlet on this momentous matter.

Okay, so it was a very soft and teeny gauntlet. But still.

Katie Couric Hosts 18th Annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall Of Fame AwardsMorley Safer, near the end of a pretty interesting piece on commercial drones, interviewed Dianne, who opposes their proliferation. At 10:17 of his report, Difi repeats the yarn she first spun to Senate committee in January, of how she “peeked” out the window during a Code Pink demonstration outside her home to find “there’s a drone facing me.”

Safer serves up a big yuk, quickly followed by footage of the protest against Feinstein’s staunch backing of the NSA’s massive data collection program: “The demonstrators who were protesting government surveillance say it wasn’t a drone, just a toy helicopter,” he says confirming what was first reported by the Atlantic Wire, and which we’ve been droning on about ever since.

Calbuzz get results. Again.

And now, a lighter story: With Feinstein and the CIA hurling accusations of law-breaking at each other, we see by the morning paper that the Justice Department doesn’t want any part of this one. Calbuzz doesn’t look for any charges to be filed anytime soon.

Five other takeaways from her pasting of her erstwhile Agency pals:

1-Those Bezerkeleyites and other libs suddenly hurling huzzahs at secrecy surveillance sweetheart Dianne for apparently changing her spots (mixed metaphor? –ed.) should hold off on the Nobel Peace Prize nomination letters. Despite trashing the CIA, there’s not a hint that she’s changed her mind on the NSA’s total monitoring of phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook postings and brain wave signals of Americans, which she insists are national security necessities, despite howls from what she condescends to call “the privacy people.”

2-Feinstein’s surprise attack comes amid widespread Democratic fears that they will lose the Senate in November; Republican control would cost her the chairmanship of the intelligence committee, and pose the possibility that the long-delayed torture report might never be released.

difi3-Feinstein at key points in her career has tended to use private, sometimes anecdotal experiences to craft policy. Two examples: Dianne has traced her flip-flop on capital punishment to witnessing, while on the state women’s parole board, a female felon’s testimony that she never took a loaded gun into an armed robbery for fear of accidentally killing someone and getting the death penalty. And Dianne routinely explains her support of gun control by recounting the gory details of finding Harvey Milk’s body after his assassination.

Now, suddenly, her transformation from intelligence community shill to fierce CIA critic comes only after her committee’s privacy may have been violated, never mind the feelings of millions of plain folks outraged by government spying on them, a double standard duly noted by critics from Jon Stewart to Edward Snowden.

4-It may be coincidence, but Feinstein turned on the CIA in Washington at a time when her popularity ratings at home are drooping; as Calbuzz has noted, she’s lost 15 points since being re-elected, during a time when she emerged as the most visible champion of government spying in the nation.

5-We should look so good at 80.

carla premium_author_bioScoops and screams:  That blast you heard from Fifth and Mission in S.F. was the sound of Carla Marinucci’s head exploding when she read a piece by John Hrabe at Cal Newsroom asserting that her excloo on the shabby voting record of GOP wannabe governor Neel Kashkari was handed to her wrapped in a big red bow, and insinuating she was unethical for running it without disclosing where she got it.

“SF Chronicle scoop on Kashkari’s voting record came from Kashkari campaign,” Hrabe headlined his piece, published Monday.

Swiftly taking to Facebook, Costco Carla flatly denied it:  ”The reporter never contacted me on this story. If he had, I would have told him it is totally false.” Those comments were quite mild compared to what she had to say later:

“#*@%&*#*!%##@**!!!” she told us, in part.

Let’s be clear on what’s truly important here: the substance of Marinucci’s original story. In seeking an entry level job as the chief executive of the nation’s largest state, Cash comes to the task with a lousy record in performing the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship.

In the interest of full disclosure, we also note that Calbuzz has, at various times over several decades, worked and socialized with Carla. At least half of us was the editor of her college paper, and at least half of the rest hired her into her current position. We know her as a person of integrity and a seasoned reporter who doesn’t cut corners. That said, a couple of observations on the flap that has politics and media types mongering gossip:

–We’re still trying to figure out why Kashkari’s campaign would want to leak his crummy voting record to the Chronicle so Marinucci could get a story in the paper on the day the announces he’s running, as Hrabe claims: “The Kashkari campaign supplied the Chronicle with all the information for its story. And the Chronicle rewarded Kashkari’s openness by dropping it the day of his campaign launch. “ Huh? How is stepping on his announcement story a favor?

– Hrabe claims that if Marinucci had tracked Cash’s voting records herself, there would a document or official notation in every registrar’s office where she looked: “The six registrar of voters cited in the Chronicle story have no records of ever being contacted by the Chronicle, leaving Kashkari as the only person with a full history of his voting record at that time,” he wrote.

hrabe 408b7b2cee508f5216b8b733af0c34b6But anyone who’s covered politics knows it’s not hard to check someone’s voting record without leaving a trail of crumbs, sometimes by strolling into the registrar’s office, or getting a friendly clerk on the phone or working through a data base firm that does public record searches. Hrabe writes that “a form would have been completed,” or “secondary evidence would have existed in the form of internal records about the phone call, e.g. a press officer’s notes” and reports there are documents on requests by other reporters. For an ostensibly conservative journalist, he sure puts a lot of faith in the performance of public employees.

– Marinucci has broken the same story about candidates failing to vote about 50 times, most notably in 2010, when her reporting knocked Meg Whitman off her axis. It wasn’t like anybody had to plant the Kashkari story – she checks out newbie candidates as a matter of routine.

–In defending his very bad decision not to call Marinucci before posting his story, Hrabe says this in an email exchange with our old friend Dan Borenstein, who’s also writing on the subject, that’s posted on Cal Newsroom: “An ace reporter like Carla Marinucci would have beat to publication.” Huh II? Publication of what? A first-person Chronicle story reporting that she was a shill for the Kashkari campaign?

Fleischman– A secondary issue arises from Hrabe wearing at least two journalistic hats in production of his story. First he reported and wrote it; he also apparently edited it (“I am solely responsible for the piece,” he emailed Borenstein) and, finally, he linked to it on the popular conservative website Flashreport, where he works as “senior editor” a couple days a week (Here we recall the newsroom maxim: “Every writer needs an editor”), including last Sunday when Jon Fleischman, the site’s proprietor, was carousing at the Republican convention.

Fleischman pleas that as an aggregator he doesn’t have to vouch for the content of every story he links to. A sensitive soul, however, he’s chewing his liver as he ponders a navel-gazing column. Plenty of free parking.

smith,ron4524-crop-sb10*304Bottom line: A big swing that missed. Having found no documentary trail of Marinucci researching Kashkari’s voting record, Hrabe seems then to have assumed there were no alternative explanations, and unfairly trashed Marinucci. Another newsroom wheeze: “Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups.”

Update March 22: The aforementioned Borenstein has now filed his column on this matter. You can find it here.

Ron Smith, RIP. At press time, we received the sad news that our old friend Ron Smith, one of the more decent, civil and genuine people in the business, has died at 71. Ron worked for a host of California politicians that we covered, including Feinstein, Tom Campbell, Ed Zschau, Pete McCloskey and Becky Morgan, and he was unfailingly honest, gentlemanly and of good cheer. Mark Barabak’s nice obit is here.

Why California GOP’s “Reboot” Strategy Isn’t Enough

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Former Sen. Jim Brulte visits the Capitol Bureau.One after another of the speakers at last weekend’s California Republican Party convention did an admirable job of staying on Chairman Jim Brulte’s message: “Rebuild. Renew. Reclaim.” But there was remarkably little, if any, discussion of what about the GOP’s message and program has put them in a spot where rebooting is the only option.

Brulte, the former legislative leader who has refocused the party’s aim at local, non-partisan elections and potentially winnable legislative races, repeated his mantra that Republicans cannot continue to preach only to the choir, that winning 100% of the party’s 29% of voters will never get them to a 51% victory, and that the GOP must carry its message to diverse communities that are “outside of our comfort zone.”

In a neighborhood election, he is fond of saying, the candidate will win who looks and sounds like the voters and who shares their values and experience. With the right candidate, the right message, with enough money and a strong ground organization, Republicans can win elections, he preaches.

Brulte recognizes he is a party chairman, not an ideological or policy leader, let alone a media star. He’s a nuts and bolts guy. Which is surely needed in the wake of former self-promoting GOP Chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Ron Nehring.  His strategic approach is to avoid the limelight himself and use the state GOP to help win local non-partisan elections and build from the ground up toward regional and eventually statewide partisan races.

faulconerWhat Party? Republican Kevin Faulconer’s recent victory in the San Diego mayor’s race was Exhibit A for Brulte and his allies touting GOP success. Amid an endless number of receptions and rallies that portrayed his victory to the party faithful as a partisan win, no one seemed too eager to mention the fact that this was a non-partisan election. Faulconer didn’t run as a Republican; he ran on “restoring trust and integrity to the mayor’s office, and increasing financial stability, transparency and accountability at City Hall,” in the wake of disgraced Mayor Bob Filner’s scandalous tenure.

The test for Faulconer, and for Brulte’s ground-up strategy,  will come if and when Faulconer seeks partisan office in something other than a safe Republican district.

Meanwhile, Brulte’s strategy of choosing to throw party resources into only those races where victory seems plausible is not a game plan with which all Republicans agree:  “A major political party should have a candidate on the ballot in every general election,” argues conservative stalwart and blogger Jon Fleischman. “The Republican Party loses when it doesn’t have a standard-bearer on the ballot.”

Even more broadly, Brulte’s approach leaves a gaping hole in strategy for the CRP.

It’s the Message, Stupid. Their problem is not a “failure to communicate.” It’s the content of what’s being communicated: the GOP’s overarching commitment – as an organization – against abortion rights and gay marriage, against containing global warming, against the interests of labor and the working poor, against universal health care and gun control and against a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Unfortunately for the GOP, that’s still their brand, and California voters aren’t buying. Polls and elections demonstrate that working people, environmentally attuned voters, women, Latinos, Asians and blacks, young people, and moderate and independent voters in general don’t share these values. That’s why the party finds itself in a position where it must rebuild and renew in order to reclaim its position as a major force in California politics.

The slogan is good but the fix is inadequate.

theykeepcoming“This is a party that, whether we like it or not, has been in decline for over two decades in this state,” Brulte told reporters at a small gaggle in his 9th floor suite at the Burlingame Hyatt Regency on Friday as the GOP convention was set to open.

And what happened two decades ago that set the California GOP into its tailspin? Proposition 187, the anti-illegal immigrant initiative which Republican Gov. Pete Wilson used as a weapon to win re-election but which drove an as-yet unrepaired wedge between the party and Latinos. Wilson’s “They Keep Coming” ad lives in infamy.

It’s a problem that plagues the California GOP to this day, despite energetic and enthusiastic efforts, including by San Diego’s Ruben Barrales and his “Grow Elect” operation, to find, recruit, train and elect Latino Republicans as part of the party’s rebuilding effort.

Still Beating a Bad Drum. The California Republican Party – although not all of its elected officials – remains steadfastly opposed to providing a pathway to legality or citizenship for undocumented immigrants and vehemently opposed as well to providing scholarships to public universities for children of illegal immigrants.

donnellynewOne of its leading candidates for governor, for example, is Assemblyman Tim “Shooter” Donnelly of San Bernardino, who has participated in “Minuteman” patrols on the Mexican border and whose web site says:

As our border remains ever more porous, the costs of illegal immigration continue to mount. The legislature cuts our education and law enforcement budgets yet passes horrific entitlements costing us billions! . . .  I spent my vacation leading the campaign to overturn the California DREAM Act, the bill that would give those illegal immigrants free taxpayer funded college tuition money. In my first year in office, I introduced legislation to bring SB 1070, the Arizona Law, to California and stop sanctuary cities –jurisdictions that refuse to enforce immigration laws.

The other leading GOP candidate for governor, by the way, Neel Kashkari, does support a pathway to legal status for unauthorized immigrants, although he’s open to discussion on whether that would mean citizenship or some-form of green-card legality. Should Kash (and not Shooter) win a chance to run against Gov. Brown in November, he could make strides toward repairing the GOP brand among Latinos.


Not John Burton

Perhaps because of the rise of libertarian Republicans like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – whose stands on social issues are more attuned to the sensibilities of younger voters – the California Republican Party seemed to be drawing more young activists to its convention than recent confabs have seen.

How quickly – and whether – they can alter the party’s hard-line stances on social issues that conflict with the broad spectrum of California voters – on choice, gay marriage, immigration, the environment, etc. – remains to be seen. There was no indication last weekend that Brulte and the party poobahs are prepared, yet, to take on the blue-haired ladies and white-belted geezers who have dominated GOP conventions for eons.

Bottom Line. Until they do, the Grand Old Party will teeter on irrelevance in California.

Kash: Brown’s a Caretaker; I’ll Be Like Pope Francis

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

kashkari closeupRepublican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari on Saturday ridiculed 75-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown as a “caretaker” and defender of the status quo who is “half asleep,” saying he instead aspires to be a “transformational” leader in the mold of Pope Francis.

In an exclusive interview with Calbuzz at the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame, Kashkari, 40, also said his background as a Hindu is the source of his libertarian social views on issues like gay marriage and abortion, in which he would allow individuals to make their own choices.

“Religiously, I’m Hindu and one of the things I really like about Hinduism is that it really respects all other religions,” Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official, said when asked to explain how his views on social issues evolved.

“It’s saying there’s not only one right answer,” he said. “So maybe it comes back to my religious philosophy which is that you find your own path and you’re the only person who can tell you what that right path is. And that then bleeds into my views on social issues whether it’s marriage or choice et cetera.”

Wings and world views: Kashkari — or Kash and Carry as he’s know at Calbuzz — is one of two leading GOP candidates for governor: the other is Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino, a pro-gun rights conservative whose views on social issues are 180 degrees opposite from Kashkari’s.

While Donnelly’s world view is more in sync with the conservative wing of the party that generally controls primary elections, Kashkari has raised far more money and holds positions overall more in tune with California’s general election voting population. With California’s new top-two primary system, Kashkari’s immediate goal is to place second to qualify for a November run-off.

Either candidate would face a prohibitive favorite in Brown, who already has raised more than $17 million and who enjoys widespread popularity, after balancing the state budget and calming the atmosphere in Sacramento.

Nevertheless, Kashkari argues, Brown is vulnerable.

“Unfortunately, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ plays just as well in California today because we’re ranked 46th in jobs, 46th in education and No. 1 in poverty,” Kashkari said, referring to Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign mantra in ousting incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

jerrycasual“Jerry Brown doesn’t even acknowledge the people that are in poverty in California,” Kashkari said. “So his poll numbers are 50 to 60 percent approval. But only about a third of voters think he should be re-elected. For a Democratic governor in a Democratic state, his re-elect number should be a lot higher. And that’s because every time he says ‘California comeback’ families are looking across the dinner table at each other and saying ‘What in the world is that man talking about? We’re not back.’ So he’s very vulnerable.”

So you think California is worse off than it was four years ago? Calbuzz asked.

“He has not made the big changes that are necessary to put families back to work. Sure, we were in an economic free-fall and the knife is no longer falling. But has he done the big structural things that need to be done to reduce unemployment, to really fix the schools, to break the cycle of poverty, to rebuild the middle class? No way.”

Is California better off than it was four years ago?

“I would say no. It’s number one in poverty – 24% poverty rate. For those families living in poverty, no way. You go tell them that they’re better off,” Kashkari said.

Francis and Benedict: Kashkari charged that “Jerry Brown is good at one thing – lowering expectations, convincing you that the status quo is all that’s possible, all you can do is make minor changes.

“Let me give you an example…I love Pope Francis, I adore the guy. I’m not a Catholic but I adore Pope Francis. Pope Francis has been a transformational figure in the first six months that he’s been pope. Pope Francis has the exact same authorities and powers that Pope Benedict had before him…And look at what a transformational, powerful leader has been able to do when they use the office to its full potential….

“Do either of you think that Jerry Brown is a transformational leader? No, he’s a caretaker,” Kashkari said. “Now I’m not saying I’m Pope Francis but I can guarantee you this, I’m no caretaker. I’m not running for governor to sit there and kick my feet up and just defend the status quo. Absolutely not.”

“The executive’s job is to provide leadership to the Legislature,” he said. “Jerry Brown is just a caretaker. He’s not providing leadership. He’s half asleep. A hundred pet projects come out of the Legislature, or hundreds every year, and they just fall on the governor’s desk and he signs 95% of them.”

brown-mothertcropIrony and hot water: There was irony in Kashkari’s comparisons, given that the iconoclastic Gov. Gandalf, a former Jesuit seminarian who once tended the poor in Calcutta with Mother Teresa, has vetoed about double the percentage of bills that landed on his desk than did the Late Great Republican Saint Ronald Reagan — 12% compared to St. RR’s 6% — and chaptered far fewer bills per year than Reagan or former GOP Gov. George Deukmejian.

Moreover, the assertion that it’s the governor’s job to lead and the Legislature’s job to follow landed former Gov. Gray Davis in hot water even before he arrived in Sacramento in 1999. His comments to that effect, as reported at the time by future Calbuzzer Rob Gunnison, were deeply offensive to Legislative leaders who for some reason see themselves as a separate branch of government with powers the executive branch must accommodate.

Kashkari identified himself as a libertarian on social issues and repeatedly insisted that on gay marriage and abortion rights, he would seek no changes in the law. But on gun control, while he is a gun owner himself, he has no problem with laws requiring background checks or controlling possession of assault rifles.

Oil and jobs: Asked about drilling for oil off the coast of California, Kashkari said, “I’m OK for absolutely expanding our natural resources development both onshore and offshore although I think onshore has shown much more potential in the near term and will really create a lot of jobs.”

So if an oil company wants to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara, we asked, are you OK with that?

“I’m OK with having that conversation. The people of Santa Barbara are going to want to weigh in. We have to find the right balance,” he said. “To me, you can develop our natural resources while protecting the environment. It’s not either/or, you can do both at the same time. So I am for the environmentally sound development of our natural resources. You can do both.”