Republican Neel Kashkari, seeking to appeal to the GOP's conservative base five weeks before the June 3 primary election, has cast himself as a conservative and a "political outsider" in the first mail piece of his gubernatorial campaign.
The mailer, sent Wednesday, features photographs of Kashkari, a social moderate, with an ax near the mountain home he keeps in Truckee. On the log he is chopping is a toy train, a symbol of Kashkari's opposition to the state's $68 billion high-speed rail project.
Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who managed the federal government's $700 billion bank bailout, is running far behind tea party favorite Tim Donnelly in early polls, but he has a fundraising advantage that will afford him a limited advertising run ahead of the election. Statewide elections in California are typically dominated by television ads, but mail may be significant in a race between Kashkari and Donnelly, two relatively underfunded Republicans.
Neither candidate is expected to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, but whoever finishes first in June will advance to a Nov. 4 runoff against the governor.
Kashkari supports a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants and same-sex marriage and abortion rights, and he has been criticized by conservative Republicans for his vote for Barack Obama in 2008. Kashkari has said he voted for Obama because he was receiving better financial advice than the Republican nominee, John McCain. He said he became disappointed in Obama and supported Mitt Romney in 2012.
Kashkari's mailer introduces the candidate as "Conservative Republican Neel Kashkari," and it says he will "end the waste and get spending under control" in government.
"He'll get able-bodied people off welfare, food stamps, and unemployment and into the workforce," the mailer says. "He'll work to create jobs and attract new companies to California to get families back to work."
The mailer was being sent statewide to high-propensity Republican voters. Kashkari's campaign declined to say how many households would receive the piece, or how much it cost.
Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, bristled in an email at Kashkari's description of himself as conservative.
"I didn't get the memo that the Webster's dictionary people changed the definition of 'conservative' to mean, voting for Obama, pro choice, and pro Wall Street bailouts?" he asked.
PHOTO: Image from mail piece distributed by Neel Kashkari's gubernatorial campaign on April 30, 2014.