Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly challenged rival Neel Kashkari on Monday to an "old-fashioned debate" at this weekend's gathering of the California Republican Party, an invitation immediately dismissed by Kashkari and party leadership.
The challenge, issued in a letter on Donnelly's website, came just days before the CRP opens its Burlingame convention.
"While we are both attempting to sway convention goers to ride along with our respective campaigns, it is imperative our fellow Republicans learn as much about our plans, our backgrounds, and our campaigns as possible," Donnelly wrote. "Even though we both have an 'R' behind our names, you and I have different life experiences, ideas for California, and campaign focuses."
Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, said "a good old-fashioned debate at the upcoming California Republican Party convention is the perfect place to make that happen."
Donnelly, who is far more conservative than Kashkari, is embraced by tea party activists but faces resistance within the party's professional ranks. Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, would have little reason to engage Donnelly at a meeting of party activists.
"It's our understanding from the CRP that there will not be a debate at this weekend's convention," Jessica Ng, a Kashkari campaign spokeswoman, said in an email. "That being said, Neel looks forward to continuing to share with voters his vision for California, and there will surely be many opportunities for voters to hear from him and all the gubernatorial candidates in the coming months, including in a debate setting."
Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the party, said, "The CRP doesn't involve itself in discussions between primary candidates in a contested race."
PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders