Former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari announced Tuesday that he is running for governor of California, staking his campaign on his ability to create jobs and improve public schools.
“Here today, on this stage, I am announcing that I’m running for governor of California,” Kashkari told a few hundred people at a luncheon at Cal State Sacramento. “That’s my platform, jobs and education. That’s it. That’s why I’m running for governor of California.”
The 40-year-old Republican has long been mulling a run, and has spent much of the past year meeting with donors, politicians and GOP activists. He has also been visiting schools, homeless shelters and diverse communities across the state.
His entry into the contest offers Republicans two dramatically different paths as they try to take on incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
The other Republican in the race -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly from Twin Peaks -- is a staunch conservative, founder of a Minuteman border-patrol chapter and a tea-party favorite. Kashkari is a fiscal conservative who supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights and voted for President Obama in 2008.
Kashkari, who has never held elected office, ran the taxpayer-funded federal bank bailout under President George W. Bush and Obama and has worked as a fund manager, investment banker and engineer. He pointed to his work running the bailout, when politicians worked together to ward off financial disaster, as an example of what he hoped to accomplish in California.
“If we could get Republicans and Democrats to work together in Washington, D.C., then I know we can get them to work together in Sacramento. If we could break the back of the worst economic crisis our country has faced in 80 years, then I know we can break the back of the crisis that is destroying opportunity for California families and kids,” Kashkari said in a statement.
He will face notable tests in coming weeks -- whether Republican voters are open to his candidacy, and whether he can raise the money necessary to take on Brown.
Kashkari is a multimillionaire but has said he does not have the wealth to self-fund a race. He announced a fundraising committee Tuesday that contained a handful of big-name GOP donors.
Among the members of the committee are Emil Henry of New York City, who was a fundraising bundler 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney; Robert Day, the founder of TCW, a Los Angeles investment firm; Richard Roeder, the managing member of Vance Street Capital, a private equity firm; and Harry McMahon, vice chairman of Merrill Lynch.
Kashkari also named new members of his campaign team, which includes political consultants who advised Romney, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, 2010 California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman and 2010 California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina.