An interview with Tim Donnelly

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly doesn’t believe he’s out of step with most Californians on a variety of issues, even if polls say he is – or he just doesn’t care.

Tim DonnellyI talked with the conservative Assemblyman from Twin Peaks early Wednesday afternoon, and asked how he feels about polls that show most California voters have different views than his on issues such as Common Core education standards, climate change, abortion rights, gun control, immigration and more.

He replied by citing a Gallup poll from December that found 72 percent of Americans believe big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question.

An honest candidate can succeed “if you tap into that and be the person who is articulating what is in people’s hearts” said Donnelly, whose campaign website is peppered with references to tyranny, freedom and liberty.

Donnelly said his priorities in the final weeks before June 3’s primary will be “raising money and getting out the vote, and there’s nothing better for getting out the vote than being there in person.” That means long days of phone calls and wearing out a lot of tire rubber and shoe leather. Then, after the primary, he expects to offer more specific policy proposals.

“It’s not a pivot away from principle, but it’s a pivot from more populist ideas to serious policy,” he said. “We’ve always had serious policy ideas in mind but we’ve been communicating them in sound bytes.”

Once the field has been narrowed to two candidates, it becomes a contest of “who has the better vision, who has the nuts and bolts of how we can turn this state around,” Donnelly said. “It’s a different campaign, it’s a much more serious kind of campaign.”

“I love the idea that Jerry Brown and his minions are not going to take me seriously, that they’re going to be laughing and dancing and celebrating in the streets” once it’s a one-on-one contest, he said. But that’s “largely how Jerry Brown has ruled the state,” and Donnelly is ready to argue that in a David-versus-Goliath fashion. “The people are going to be on the side of the underdog, they always are.”

More, after the jump…

He said polls show support for Common Core mainly because most Californians don’t understand it yet, and that Democrats pro-abortion-choice agenda has weakened broader health-care protections for women.

He called for repealing Proposition 30, which temporarily raised income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents and sales taxes for all, because he said it’s driving job-creating businesses out of the state. Most Californians he meets “don’t mind paying their fair share of taxes,” he said, “but people in California feel like, what do they get for it? Roads are falling apart, the schools are almost dead last” and excessive regulation strangles businesses.

“That right there, that’s an American sentiment,” he said. “I don’t know what the Tea Party is but it’s not a party, it’s an attitude, an American attitude that says I want the government to control itself rather than trying to control me.”

Asked about the newly released federal study on climate change, Donnelly said there’s a lot of dissent that isn’t mentioned in such reports.

“California always wants to lead the nation, even when the science is not there to back it up, in implementing policies that are tremendously damaging to our economy,” he said, adding environmentalists “want to save the planet but they don’t mind destroying the state of California and the economy to do it.”

Donnelly called the state’s cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions “a disaster” that confiscates private capital that could otherwise be used to expand businesses and create jobs. It’s even worse that Brown wants to redirect revenue from the program to the state’s high-speed rail project, on which many voters feel they’ve been hoodwinked as the cost has skyrocketed, he said.

And asked about this week’s flap in which a post on his campaign’s Facebook page alleged his GOP gubernatorial rival Neel Kashari “supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code in 2008 when he ran TARP,” Donnelly replied he has “never seen such a vitriolic and uninformed reaction to a simple Facebook post that we shared.”

The post included a tweet that linked to a 2008 conservative opinion piece without any facts backing Kashkari’s support of anything related to Islamic law. But Donnelly insisted other articles also have raised “serious concerns over the Treasury Department and the guy who was running TARP… discussing a form of law that is really a quasi-religious rule.”

Donnelly told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that he stands by the Facebook item: “Given the recent stories and protests about the outrage of the discriminatory nature of Sharia law, we’re horrified that Kashkari would support Sharia anything.”

Donnelly on Wednesday chalked up the backlash – including scathing comments and social media posts from within the GOP, like the Alameda County Republican Party – to Kashkari’s highly paid campaign staff “systematically trying to destroy me with all kinds of allegations.” He’s simply “an absolute believer in separation of church and state,” he said, and definitely not a racist: “My entire extended family are immigrants, I’m the only white guy in my family out here in California.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.