A senior California Republican on Thursday angrily denounced fellow GOP member Tim Donnelly's attempts to link gubernatorial rival Neel Kashkari to fundamentalist Islamic law.
"There is no place in any public discussion for this type of hateful and ignorant garbage," Rep. Darrell Issa said in a statement. "As far as I'm concerned, this type of stupidity disqualifies Tim Donnelly from being fit to hold any office, anywhere. Donnelly is no longer a viable option for California voters."
On Facebook and Twitter this week, Donnelly, an assemblyman from San Bernardino County who announced his candidacy for governor last year, said Kashkari — also a Republican — condoned the strictures of sharia law because he once participated in a U.S. Treasury conference about Islamic finance.
Issa, a seven-term congressman from Vista, is ideologically more similar to Donnelly but endorsed Kashkari last week, saying the former U.S. Treasury official is "the right candidate to lead the Republican ticket in California this November."
On Thursday, Issa noted that as an Arab American, he has been the target of "baseless charges" similar to those Donnelly has leveled at Kashkari, who is Hindu and of Indian descent.
"It is crap like this that gives Republicans a bad name, and there is no place in the Republican Party or in this race for someone like Tim Donnelly," his statement said.
Donnelly, the front-runner among GOP candidates in the June 3 primary contest, lashed back at Issa, noting that Kashkari led the taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street, a program Issa opposed.
"The ignorance and stupidity of Mr. Issa's comment is only surpassed by its lack of any factual content," Donnelly said in a statement. "Fortunately the voters will be picking the next governor of California, not Washington insiders like Mr. Issa."
Kashkari, who was a Treasury official at the time of the conference, has called Donnelly's assertion "absurd on its face." He delivered introductory remarks at the 2008 gathering, which focused on informing policy leaders about Islamic banking.
Kashkari has said the forum was largely intended to show how free-market principles could be used in nations with financial practices governed by Islamic precepts against, for example, the charging of interest on loans.
A political advisor to Kashkari confronted Donnelly on talk radio Wednesday, prompting the candidate to take a small step back from his attack. He apologized for and then deleted a post on Twitter about Kashkari's alleged "submission" to fundamentalist doctrine.
Donnelly said on the show that he had been "retweeting" someone else's comments. But an archive of deleted Twitter posts shows that was not the case.
Donnelly continued to raise the issue on a radio show on Thursday. He said that he took Kashkari at his word when he said he wasn't “endorsing” sharia law, but that his rival had failed to explain why such a presentation was being made to American policymakers.
“What were they pushing on our government? I’m just curious,” Donnelly said on the Blaze Radio. “... The simple question has not been answered.”
Late Thursday, Donnelly's Facebook page still said, "Kashkari supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, sharia banking code in 2008 when he ran" the bailout. Two posts on the page linking Kashkari to sharia law have been shared and "liked" nearly 1,000 times.
Issa is the most prominent Republican to denounce Donnelly's comments, although others have also weighed in. They include former state GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim, who wrote a post called "Standing Against Discrimination Within Your Own Party" on a conservative blog called Fox and Hounds Daily.
"There are times a person from my party says something so outrageous that the failure to respond would be irresponsible," Sundheim wrote. "Gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly's statement that fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari supports sharia law is such a statement."
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte has declined to comment on the matter.
In response to a request for comment from Brulte, the party's executive director said in an email, "The CRP will not get involved in a discussion between primary candidates in a contested race."