Pete Wilson skeptical of GOP prospects for ousting Gov. Brown

Pete Wilson skeptical of GOP prospects for ousting Gov. Brown
Former California Gov. Pete Wilson speaking in Costa Mesa in 2012. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It's one thing for fellow Democrats to portray California Gov. Jerry Brown's reelection as inevitable.

It's another for one of Brown's Republican predecessors to suggest that no one on the horizon looks likely to stop the incumbent from coasting to a fourth term in November.

Asked on Friday for his perspective on the governor's race, former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson responded: "What governor's race?"

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a top Republican contender, dropped out of the contest Thursday. That left Republicans with only one major candidate, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a former Minuteman border patrol leader whose tea party leanings make him a tough sell in a state as solidly Democratic as California.

"I know that there are some people who are considering a run," Wilson said in an interview at an earthquake conference at Cal State Northridge. "But it's both early and I just don't know how serious they would be."

Wilson's remarks were something less than a vote of confidence in Neel Kashkari, a 40-year-old Republican banker who has been quietly preparing for months to join the race.

Wilson, who won the 1990 and 1994 gubernatorial elections, conceded he had some "basic philosophical disagreements" with Brown, but went on to praise him.

"He's done some things well," Wilson said. "He's counseling the wisdom of putting aside the budget surplus as a reserve and having to fight Democratic leaders to prevent their spending it."

Wilson also recalled that he'd joined three other former governors in filing a U.S. Supreme Court brief backing Brown's fight to block the release of thousands of state prison inmates. Judges have ruled that overcrowding prevents adequate healthcare for prisoners.

"If you want to improve healthcare, improve healthcare," Wilson said. "You don't do it by releasing people who are dangerous."