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Brown makes small-town campaign stop as Kashkari courts city voters

Gov. Jerry Brown held his grand finale as a gubernatorial candidate Saturday and opponent Neil Kashkari made his own appearance, inside an office building in Milpitas, near San Jose.

Gov. Jerry Brown held his grand finale as a gubernatorial candidate Saturday before a warm, jeans-clad crowd in this tiny Colusa County farm town, forgoing the glare of the big city on the final weekend before the Nov. 4 election to be near his family’s Northern California roots.

The low-key rally, under blue skies and within sight of the town’s single stoplight, spoke to Brown’s dominating lead in the polls over little-known Republican challenger Neel Kashkari — and to the 76-year-old governor’s quixotic style.

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FOR THE RECORD:

Governor’s race: An article in the Nov. 2 California section about campaign events in the California governor’s race said August Schuckman was Gov. Jerry Brown’s maternal great-grandfather. Schuckman was his paternal great-grandfather. —
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Brown called the event a tribute to his maternal great-grandfather, August Schuckman, who left Germany, crossed the Great Plains and settled just outside of Williams in 1852.

The governor, who is running for a historic fourth term, said he wanted to recognize the hardscrabble, pioneering spirit of early Californians to show what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.

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“It’s really important that we know where we came from if we want to figure out where we’re going,” Brown told a crowd of about 500, most of the audience on fold-out chairs on the lawn of the Williams Town Square Park. “Certainly I’ve always been one to try to keep my eyes on the stars and keep my feet on the ground.”

To the southwest, Kashkari made his own appearance, inside an office building in Milpitas, near San Jose, with other GOP candidates.

The former Wall Street financier spoke passionately about an energy among California Republicans and about his efforts to steer the party toward a more inclusive path.

“I know it’s resonating when I go into communities all across the state and see the reception I get,” Kashkari said. “It may be on a smaller scale, but it’s real.”

The contrast between the two events was striking.

Kashkari wore a button-down white shirt and sport coat and was introduced by the local Republican chairman. The crowd was filled with Asian American voters, many there to support GOP state Senate candidate Peter Kuo. GOP mega-donor Charlie Munger stood in the audience.

In Williams, Brown opted for a black windbreaker and trail shoes. The crowd was peppered with local farmers and distant relatives, and a few yards away smoke rose from a campaign barbecue in the parking lot of the Toro Loco Carniceria. Brown was called onstage by his 90-year-old cousin, Patricia Allen Schaad.

“I’m sure when his political advisors got out of their cars and looked around, they said, ‘He wants to have it here?’ ” Pat Ash, mayor of the town of about 5,000, said before the event. “But you know, what the hell. We’re honored.”

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FOR THE RECORD

Nov. 1, 10:09 p.m.: An earlier version of this article referred to Mayor Pat Ash as Pat Williams.

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Much of Brown’s half-hour speech was devoted to the journey and travails of the Schuckman family and the early days of this speck of the Central Valley.

But the governor, who said the last Brown to win Colusa County was his father, Pat, against Richard Nixon, also managed to strike all the main chords of his campaign.

Brown spoke of the gains California had made on climate change and reducing carbon emissions, saying the state was setting an example for the nation and the world.

He promised continued fiscal restraint and said he would devote his next term to ensuring the success of his policies that have transferred more responsibility for criminal justice and school funding to local government.

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Brown also lobbied hard for Proposition 1, a $7.5-billion water bond measure on Tuesday’s ballot that could bankroll a new reservoir in Colusa County, habitat preservation in the Sierra Nevada and treatment of contaminated groundwater in the Los Angeles Basin.

His comments were well received in a farming community hard hit by the drought.

“We’re not going to let anyone take your water — or my water,” Brown said, to hoots from the crowd.

Brown is hoping to sink a well on a 2,700-acre property his family owns just outside of Williams, where he plans to build a home and eventually settle.

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The governor already has a small cabin on the land, which his wife, Anne Gust Brown, referred to as little more than a “wood tent.” It has no indoor plumbing.

Two “water witches” with divining rods ventured out to the property to find a good spot for the well, said Walter Seaver, 60, of Colusa, a distant cousin who has been helping Brown with the property. Both zeroed in on the same area, he said.

“Jerry was real skeptical” of their findings, Seaver said. “We’ll see. If they hit water, maybe he’ll be convinced.”

In Milpitas, Kashkari dismissed skepticism about his chances on Tuesday, despite Brown’s consistent double-digit lead over him in opinion polls.

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“Our side is energized. Their side is asleep,” said Kashkari, who is making his first run for public office.

As evidence, he cited information from a political data firm showing that 38% of mail ballots already submitted are from Republicans, even though fewer than 30% of voters are registered with the party.

The Saturday appearance was a joint event for Kashkari, the son of immigrants from India, and Kuo, an immigrant from Taiwan — and a Mandarin translator was on hand.

Kashkari said the event illustrated his efforts to show a more inclusive Republican Party — and he joked that Brown probably didn’t have a translator at his rally.

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Among the notable speakers in Milpitas was Munger. A physicist by trade, Munger said he was impressed by Kashkari’s performance against Brown during the sole gubernatorial debate between the two, in early September.

“If every person in the state sat down and watched the debate, Brown would lose,” Munger said.

John McDowell, 57, said he appreciated Kashkari’s focus on jobs and education.

“Here [in Silicon Valley], things are going great,” he said. “But in other parts of the state, there are problems.”

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McDowell, who works in public relations, conceded that Kashkari is unlikely to win. But you never know, he said: “Lightning strikes!”

phil.willon@latimes.com

Twitter: @philwillon

chris.megerian@latimes.com

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Twitter: @chrismegerian


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