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Neel Kashkari says he raised $976k in two weeks

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari announced Wednesday he has raised $976,000 in the first two weeks of his campaign, and said there will be a lot more coming soon.

Practically none of that sum had been reported to the Secretary of State’s office by Wednesday afternoon, so it was not yet possible to assess from whom or how many the contributions came. (See updates below.)

NEEL KASHKARIBut if the figure is accurate – and it’s hard to imagine a candidate who would lie about such a thing, knowing it’ll all have to be reported in detail – it confirms suspicions that Kaskhari, 40, of Laguna Beach, is the man for whom the GOP’s deep pockets have been waiting.

Neither fellow Republican candidate Tim Donnelly nor Abel Maldonado, who dropped out of the race last month, have come anywhere close to this kind of number. After campaigning hard for months, Donnelly had only about $18,000 in unencumbered cash banked by the year’s end.

Pat Melton, Kashkari’s campaign manager, said in a news release that the former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary and asset manager “is extremely grateful to all the supporters who have helped get his campaign off to such a strong start. Clearly, there is broad support for Neel’s platform of creating good jobs and giving every kid a quality education and for his commitment to restoring the Republican Party as the party of economic opportunity.”

Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign had about $17 million banked at the start of this year.

“There’s no doubt that Neel faces a significant financial disadvantage against Governor Brown, who has already raised millions from special interests that benefit from the status quo,” Melton added. “But with 24 percent of Californians living in poverty and 18 percent of our state struggling for work, the truth remains: The status quo is unacceptable. Our campaign’s robust fundraising in these first two weeks underscores Neel’s strength as a candidate, and it will help ensure that we have the resources necessary to share with voters his vision for turning California around.”

UPDATE @ 4:33 P.M.: A copy of Kashkari’s filing I’ve just obtained shows he received $27,200 each – the maximum contribution allowed by law – from his former boss, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, and Paulson’s wife, Wendy, of Chicago; from each of his parents, Dr. Sheila Kashkari and professor Chaman Kashkari, of Stow, Ohio; from Red Mountain Group CEO Michael Mugel and his wife, Coleen, of Santa Ana; from Anthos Capital co-founder Eff Martin and his wife, Patricia, of Woodside; and from Goldman Sachs executive George Lee II of Tiburon. Kashkari worked at Goldman Sachs before following Paulson to the Treasury Department; several other Goldman Sachs employyes and executives also have contributed to his campaign.

UPDATE @ 5:10 P.M.: Kashkari’s report is now available on the Secretary of State’s website.

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Abel Maldonado drops out of race for governor

Former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado has dropped out of this year’s gubernatorial race.

At a news conference in his hometown of Santa Maria, the Republican said that “after having traveled all over the state and giving it my all, I have concluded that now is not my time.”

“It’s time to step away for a while, and spend more time with my family and stay a little closer to home helping my community, as an active private citizen,” he said. “This by no means suggests that I am giving up, or giving in. I love my country and I love my state. But it’s just time for me, to take a break and focus more of my time on being a fulltime dad and husband.”

Maldonado has been something of a pariah within parts of the GOP, both for striking a budget deal with Democrats while serving in the state Senate and for fathering a successful ballot measure that made the top-two primary system a reality.

Perhaps as a result, Maldonado never had much success in finding financial support for his campaign. He had raised just over $314,000 and had about $44,600 as of June 30, but he also had more than $47,900 in outstanding debts, effectively leaving him in the red; he has raised only about $148,800 since then. Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown had more than $10 million banked by the middle of last year and has raised at least $6.9 million more since.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, remains in the race, and former Assistant U.S. Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari – also a Republican – is expected to enter the race soon.

UPDATE @ 11:50 A.M.: California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton issued a statement saying Maldonado “saw the writing on the wall and did the smart thing. Governor Brown, and Democratic leaders in the Legislature, delivered on their promises by stopping the cuts to education, balancing the budget and pulling California out of the economic doldrums. Californians are once more discussing investing in our future instead of cutting our way to the bottom.

“It’s no surprise that Republicans are taking a look at the landscape and deciding they don’t have much to run on,” Burton said.

UPDATE @ 2:33 P.M.: Read the more complete story here.

Read Maldonado’s complete comments as prepared, after the jump…
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Poll: Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating rises

Gov. Jerry Brown has a higher approval rating than at any time since he took office in 2011, according to a new University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll.

The poll found 55 percent of registered voters approve of the job Brown is doing as governor; that’s up from 49 percent in September 2012 and 50 percent in June of this year. This latest poll shows 33 percent disapprove.

The poll of 1,503 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint; the full sample has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats like Brown best – 78 percent approval to 11 percent disapproval – but independents like him solidly as well, 68 percent to 22 percent. Republicans disapprove heavily: 68 percent, while only 22 percent approve.

Brown has tremendous support among minority voters – 67 percent to 9 percent among black voters, 65 percent to 17 percent among Asian-American voters, and 61 percent to 20 percent among Latino voters – while the white vote is somewhat more split, 51 percent approval to 41 percent disapproval.

Even so, 49 percent of all voters surveyed said California is pretty seriously on the wrong track, while 37 percent said things in the state are going in the right direction. Unhappiness with the state’s direction is highest among Republicans (79 percent), while 59 percent of nonpartisan voters say it’s on the wrong track and only 27 percent of Democrats feel that way.

“It’s impressive that Brown’s approval has increased at a time when perception of politicians are generally at historic lows,” said Drew Lieberman, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. “The government shutdown tends to reflect on all politicians at all levels, but I think Governor Brown has built some insulation from that. This data shows Brown with a strong foundation and a solid core, but also with some work left to do.”

Indeed, the poll shows that even though Brown’s favorability continues to rise, it’s too early for voters to pronounce his re-election chances a slam dunk. Only 32 percent said they would pick him again for the job, while 37 percent said they would elect someone else.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Tim Donnelly: Make California sexy for business

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, officially launched his 2014 gubernatorial campaign today in Southern California, though really he’s been on the trail for a few months already.

He also posted this rather enjoyable web video today:

Best quotes:

“We need to make California the sexiest place to do business, because right now thing sexy to me in the State of California is my wife.”

Son: “I’m a way better shot than my dad, and I don’t take guns on planes.”
Donnelly: “Did you just say that?”

“I’m tired of the media being jerks.”

“I’m not white… I’m a fleshy pinkish tone.”

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, the more centrist Republican in the race so far, released his first (and somewhat less light-hearted)web video today, too:

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Tim Donnelly’s ‘Path to Victory’ ignores obstacles

Conservative Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign floated a memo Thursday outlining a “path to victory” in which incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown and moderate Republican challenger Abel Maldonado cancel each other out.

Tim DonnellyThe memo by Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns insists Brown will have a tough record to run on, given that about 2 million Californians remain unemployed and the state now tops the nation in poverty.

“Meanwhile, after suffering a mass exodus of his campaign staff, liberal republican Abel Maldonado has been attempting to re-fashion himself as a pro-tax, pro-gay marriage, pro-illegal immigration supporter – positions which are largely out-of-step with the mainstream of the Republican Party,” the memo said. “Tim Donnelly, on the other hand, has clearly defined where he stands on the issues and hasn’t wavered in those positions.”

And next year will be California’s first gubernatorial election subject to the new top-two primary system, in which candidates of all parties compete in the same primary and the top two vote-getters advance to November’s general election regardless of party.

“With very little marketplace differentiation between presumed candidate Jerry Brown and Abel Maldonado, it clears a path for Tim Donnelly to claim his place among the top two finishers,” the memo said. “Why would a Republican vote for Abel Maldonado, when his positions aren’t that divergent from Jerry Brown’s?”

I’m not sure I buy that. But even if Donnelly were to finish in the top two, it’s hard to see how he could prevail in a general election against Brown or even against Maldonado.

California’s electorate as of February was 44 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisan, so any statewide candidate needs to reach far, far beyond the GOP base in order to win. Donnelly is a staunch gun-rights advocate, abortion-choice opponent and former Minuteman anti-immigration activist, and it’s hard to imagine him forming a strong bipartisan coalition. Deep-red conservatism, while still popular in certain legislative districts, simply isn’t what the statewide electorate now embraces.

And Brown’s popularity remains relatively strong. The Field Poll in February found Brown’s approval rating at 57 percent, the highest point of his current term and the most approval a governor has seen since Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of 2007 (though he finished his term in 2010 with a paltry 23 percent approval rating. The Public Policy Institute of California in September pegged Brown’s approval rating at 49 percent among likely voters.

California earlier this year was outpacing the nation in job creation, with payroll growth of around 2 percent; in the year from August 2012 to 2013, however, the state has added jobs at a rate of only about 1.5 percent. The state’s unemployment rate in August was 8.9 percent, compared to 7.3 percent nationwide.

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Gov. Jerry Brown is raising a whole lot of money

Though he hasn’t publicly announced his candidacy for re-election in 2014, California Gov. Jerry Brown sure is taking in campaign contributions at a rapid clip.

Brown’s campaign committee received at least $2.34 million in June – of which $1.69 million came just in the month’s final week, according to reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

Among the contributors are an array of labor unions (such as the SEIU, IBEW and California Nurses Association); big businesses (such as WalMart, Bank of America, Nike and Anheuser-Busch); health-care entities (such as Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and Kindred); gaming tribes (such as those operating the Morongo, Sycuan and Chumash casinos); and entertainment-industry folks (such as Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen).

Brown’s committee already had $7.16 million in the bank at the end of 2012.

So far, the only prominent names that have declared their gubernatorial candidacies for next year are former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, both Republicans. Next year will be the first time that the gubernatorial race is subject to California’s new top-two primary system, in which all candidates of all parties compete in June’s vote and the top two vote-getters advance to November’s general election, regardless of party.

A Public Policy Institute of California poll in May found 48 percent of registered voters approved of Brown’s job performance while 36 percent disapproved and 16 percent didn’t know. Other polls have showed similar, growing support for Brown’s job performance and his budget proposals.