Washington, Feb 1 (IANS) Former Indian-American US treasury official Neel Kashkari, a multimillionaire who oversaw the $700 billion bank bailout after the 2008 financial crisis, thinks he can unseat California’s popular Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
Kashkari, who lives in Laguna Beach in Orange County, previously worked for Goldman Sachs. Last year, Kashkari quit his job as an investment banking executive and began traveling across the state and mulling his run for governor, meeting with potential donors, community organizations and regular Californians.
“Clearly Governor Brown is a very powerful incumbent, but there are so many examples nationally of where very powerful incumbents lose,” he said Friday citing said citing former President George W. Bush’s victory over then Texan governor in 1994.
“Ann Richards was a wildly popular Democratic governor of Texas,” the former assistant US Treasury secretary, who is challenging Brown as a moderate Republican, told Buzzfeed, a website focusing on viral media currently resonating on the web, in an interview.
“People loved her, she was a really funny lady and everyone thought she was unbeatable. And then here was this young man named George W. Bush who had never held elected office before and said, ‘I think I can beat her,’ and then beat her,” he was quoted as saying.
“There are definitely Republicans who feel like California is lost and California is a permanent Democratic state and there’s no point competing here,” Kashkari said.
Kashkari, a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from India 50 years ago, was appointed to the Treasury Department by Bush in 2006.
“Things can change quickly and if you have the right leader who has the right message and right ideas, I think you can bring a lot of people together rather quickly,” he said.
Kashkari’s shot at the nomination comes largely because Brown is widely considered a shoo-in, according to Buzzfeed. Although Brown has not yet officially announced his candidacy, no other Democrats have stepped forward to challenge him, and his campaign has raised $17 million.
“I look at California schools ranked 46, jobs ranked 46, No. 1 in poverty. Someone has to fight to turn it around and I don’t see a bench,” Kashkari said.
“I don’t see a long line of people running to Sacramento to make major changes in the state, and so I said, look, if a guy like me – 40 years old, a lot of energy, experience in public policy – if a guy like me is not willing to try and turn it around, how’s the government going to get better?” he asked.
But before Kashkari takes on Brown, he needs to be among the top two vote-getters in June’s open primary where all candidates vie for the top two slots, regardless of party.
“We’re all vying for No. 2,” he told Buzzfeed.
Kashkari grew up in a middle-class household outside of Akron, Ohio. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering at the University of Illinois, he moved to California in 1998 to work as a design engineer at TRW in Redondo Beach.