A day before Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and GOP rival Neel Kashkari face off in their only debate, the Republican on Wednesday attacked the incumbent over his longtime ties to the state’s most powerful union, the California Teachers Assn.
The move foreshadows what is expected to be Kashkari’s line of attack at an event in which the struggling candidate needs to make a mark to change the dynamics of a race strongly weighted in favor of Brown.
“Jerry Brown has revealed where his loyalties lie,” Kashkari says in an eight-minute Web video about the state’s schools and CTA. “Not with the civil rights of poor kids, [but] with the union bosses that have been funding his political career for 40 years.”
The video focuses heavily on a recent court ruling that struck down parts of California’s teacher tenure rules. The trial judge accepted the arguments of plaintiffs that the rules damaged the quality of the state’s teacher workforce, which harmed the education of students, notably those who are poor or minorities.
Brown appealed the ruling late Friday, siding with the state’s teachers unions. Among the issues cited in the appeal notice were that such major changes merit appellate review and that the trial judge failed to provide a detailed basis for his reasoning.
Brown’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday about the video, which features ominous music, imagery of schoolchildren and dilapidated facilities, and interviews with guardians, a teacher and others.
Speaking to the camera in front of a chain-link fence, Kashkari alleges a more sinister motivation for the appeal: Brown’s multi-decade relationship with CTA, and the millions of dollars the union has spent promoting Brown.
Kashkari says the decline in schools and the union’s increasing power dates to Brown’s signing of the Rodda Act, which gave public schoolteachers collective bargaining rights, in 1975 during his first term as governor.
The video does not mention that performance at that state's schools slipped and the unions’ influence increased in the decades that followed, under GOP rule. In the 28 years between Brown’s stints as governor, Republicans held the state’s top post more than 23 years.
Republicans have declared war on labor before, with perilous results. Meg Whitman took on the California Nurses Assn. during her unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial run against Brown, and the union dogged her throughout the campaign. In 2005, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger provoked labor with a series of ballot measures that included efforts to change teacher tenure laws and how union dues can be spent. Labor groups banded together in a campaign against the efforts and they all failed.
Kashkari, who lags behind Brown significantly in fundraising and opinion polls, is staking his bid on changing this narrative during Thursday evening’s debate, which is sponsored by The Times and other media organizations.
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