Leveling his most partisan attack yet in California's gubernatorial campaign, Republican Neel Kashkari on Thursday accused Democrats around the nation of "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids" while, in California, he said Gov. Jerry Brown has destroyed the middle class.
In a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, the former U.S. Treasury Department official faulted Brown for unemployment, public education problems and the state's nation-high poverty rate.
"Jerry Brown's legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California," Kashkari said.
Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, are the main Republicans competing in an uphill effort to unseat Brown, a third-term Democrat.
Kashkari, who has made education a focus of his campaign, said there are examples in which the "Democratic establishment" is "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids," criticizing the U.S. Justice Department's involvement in a voucher program in Louisiana and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies on charters schools in his city.
Kashkari has not provided detailed policy proposals of his own, but he said he will release education and jobs plans "soon." He said he has not released them yet because "most voters aren't paying attention to the election yet, and we want to roll these out when people are paying attention."
Brown has a massive fundraising advantage over Kashkari and Donnelly and enjoys favorable public approval ratings. His political adviser Ace Smith, who attended the Press Club luncheon, said on Twitter that Kashkari's speech was "one of the most empty and vapid addresses in memory - zero content, zero ideas."
The speech comes ahead of the California Republican Party's biannual convention this month. Both Donnelly and Kashkari are expected to have heavy presences at the event, though neither candidates is listed as a speaker.
Meanwhile, a campaign committee calling itself "Taxpayers Supporting Kashkari for Governor 2014" has filed paperwork with the state. It lists Brent Lowder, a former executive director of the California Republican Party, as its principal officer, but has reported no fundraising yet in the race.
PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari addresses the Sacramento Press Club on Thursday, March 6, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders