ROSEVILLE, Calif. -- GOP gubernatorial candidate
"This campaign is about uniting the divided majority on the American values of hard work, personal responsibility and most importantly freedom, the idea that we were meant to live free," Donnelly told a few dozen supporters. "That's our birthright from the founders."
Donnelly was speaking at a fundraiser at a window-glass shop here where supporters who paid $99 each or $150 per couple sipped wine from plastic cups and ate pigs-in-a-blanket. On a nearby table, bumper stickers were for sale that said "Stop Tyranny, Elect Tom Donnelly Governor" and that Donnelly is a "Patriot, Not Politician."
Incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown has a massive fundraising edge, reporting $17 million in the bank as the year began. Donnelly had $54,000 cash on hand, according to campaign finance disclosure documents filed with the state last week. Donnelly said he recognized that many of his supporters couldn't write $27,200 checks – the maximum under state limits – but urged them to give as much as they could, introduce him to friends who could contribute, host a coffee or talk about him with friends on social media.
"It will take money to win," Donnelly said. "Without a victory we can't affect policy."
Donnelly did not mention his GOP rival, former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, by name, instead focusing his fire on Brown's policies. The incumbent Democrat had whitewashed the state's financial situation, he argued, by ignoring the massive pension liabilities facing the state and talking about a budget surplus.
"If we have a surplus, Gov. Brown, give it back to the people you took it from," he said.
In what is expected to be a recurring theme in coming days, Donnelly seized on the drought as evidence of bureaucratic failure.
"I think we ought to build a high-speed waterway like a peripheral canal and end the government-created dust bowl in the Central Valley," he said.
He also called for increasing water storage, building more dams and not allowing environmental protections for fish to take precedence over farmers' needs for water.
"We need to turn on those pumps," Donnelly said, "and you know what? If that means a little tiny minnow gets ground up on the way out, we ought to spread it on the fields like fertilizer."