GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, trying to claw his way into contention against Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, will announce Thursday that he recently spent a week living as a homeless person on the streets of Fresno to highlight poverty.
The move by the multimillionaire Laguna Beach resident, who ran the federal government’s Wall Street bank bailout, is intended to show the struggles facing many Californians, despite the improvements to the state’s economy.
“‘California Comeback!’ is the favorite slogan of Gov. Jerry Brown and other Sacramento politicians cheering a temporary budget surplus provided by a roaring stock market,” Kashkari wrote in an essay on the Wall Street Journal’s website Wednesday night. “But California also has the highest poverty rate in America at 24%. Is California really back?”
Kashkari wrote that he took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Fresno on July 21 with “only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush.” He said he planned to find a job. “I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work.”
Kashkari was accompanied by two videographers, who produced a 10-minute video. The footage shows a scruffy Kashkari saying, “This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life.”
The former U.S. Treasury official, fund manager and investment banker plans to discuss his experiences in a Thursday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program and at a press conference at a Sacramento food bank.
Brown, who has been ignoring his challenger, on Wednesday wrapped up a four-day trip to Mexico, where he signed trade and climate-change pacts and talked about the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the United States’ southern border.
A political spokesman for Brown did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Kashkari is facing a steep challenge, with polls showing him trailing Brown by about 20 points.
Brown is sitting on more than $22 million in campaign funds. Kashkari drained his campaign account and spent more than $2 million of his own money to come in second in the June primary. Campaign finance reports are due Thursday, but based on disclosures filed with the state, the Republican appears to have raised a little over $300,000 since the primary.
Kashkari has been trying to garner attention in unconventional ways for a GOP statewide candidate — visiting churches in South L.A., marching in a gay-pride parade in San Diego and crashing a teachers’ union conference to criticize Brown’s education policy.
During his Fresno trip, Kashkari writes, he walked miles in 100-degree heat while seeking work, showering once during the week, sleeping on park benches and running out of money, forcing him to find meals at a homeless shelter.