Kashkari criticizes Schwarzenegger, says he 'needed to be loved'

Kashkari criticizes Schwarzenegger, says he 'needed to be loved'
Neel Kashkari said former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger "needed to be loved." A spokesman for the governor said Kashkari was misinformed about Schwarzenegger's tenure as the state's last Republican governor. (Damian Dovarganes / AP)

GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari typically aims his barbs at incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democrat he is taking on in the fall.

But Thursday, the former U.S. Treasury official slashed at Arnold Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to hold the state's highest post, as incapable of reforming the state because "he needed to be loved."

Asked by an audience member how he would accomplish his goals to reshape the state as governor where Schwarzenegger had failed, Kashkari noted that the movie-star-turned-politician went to war with public employee unions when he tried to get voters to approve four ballot measures in 2005.

"He took on the cops, the teachers, the firefighters, all the big unions. And they came out, they locked arms and they just defeated him across the board," Kashkari told hundreds of people gathered at the waterfront Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach for a self-storage facility owners convention.


"Once that happened, Gov. Schwarzenegger had a symptom that so many in Hollywood have — he needed to be loved. And once you need to be loved, you're never going to do really hard things because doing hard things means you're going to make some people mad at you."

A representative for Schwarzenegger blasted Kashkari's remarks, saying he doesn't know what he's talking about, and highlighted the first-time candidate's lack of experience.

"That's a silly statement," said Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger's former communications director. "Gov. Schwarzenegger had arguably the most successful four years of any modern governor after 2005. He passed critical infrastructure bonds, the most important political reforms in the country and landmark environmental legislation, to name just a few.

"It's important for anyone running for governor, especially a novice candidate, to avoid saying things that are misinformed."

Kashkari, whose senior advisors include two veterans of Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial and election teams, faces a steep climb in his race to unseat Brown. The incumbent is seeking an unprecedented fourth term and has more than $20 million in his campaign coffers. Kashkari, since beating tea party favorite Tim Donnelly in the June primary, has struggled badly with fundraising.

Kashkari pointed to his experience running the unpopular $700-billion Wall Street bailout — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — as proof he would be effective if elected.

"When I talk about my need to be loved, I like to point out I'm the guy who ran TARP," he said to laughter. "What got us through the financial crisis is we didn't give a damn about popularity, we didn't give a damn about polls. We just did what we believed was the right thing to do, and at the time, we were hated for it. But it was the right thing to do and it worked and we protected the country and we protected taxpayers."

He said he would apply a similar ethos in Sacramento.

"I just know who I am and if I can get elected, and we make big changes and people are mad as hell, and I'm a one-term governor and we did big things, I could sleep well at night," Kashkari said.

Twitter: @LATseema