Exclusive: Kashkari Campaign Paid Costs of GOP Officials at Gubernatorial Debate

ANAHEIM, CA -- Republican Neel Kashkari's campaign paid the accommodation costs of supporters who showed up at the May 15 gubernatorial debate between Kashkari and rival Republican Tim Donnelly.

During a recent local Republican Central Committee meeting, one Central Committee member announced to the room that the Kashkari campaign would pay for hotel costs, according to a source present.

A representative of the Kashkari campaign confirmed that it had paid some accommodation costs, but said that it had done so in response to requests: "Our campaign received and was able to fulfill a few requests from out-of-town supporters who needed lodging after the debate."

Despite the incentive, Kashkari supporters were in short supply. In contrast, Donnelly supporters overwhelmed the room, not only in numbers but also in enthusiastic spirit. The abundance of Donnelly supporters prompted the fire marshal to move the overflow out into hallways.

Kashkari's representative said: “I will give Mr. Donnelly’s campaign credit for turning out supporters.”

The debate was hosted by L.A.’s popular radio hosts, John and Ken of KFI 640 AM, at the Ayers Hotel.

Debate began with opening statements, followed by questions from the hosts to each candidate, questions from audience members, and closing statements. As the debate progressed, the fight between the GOP establishment and the conservative grass roots made its way to the forefront.

Words heated up when the candidates addressed one another on issues that have circulated in the media. Kashkari took a jab at Donnelly over recent legislation that would change the process for gun permit applications in California. Donnelly, a sitting California State Assembly member, countered that the intended result of the bill would be greater protection of gun rights. 

Kashkari, a former George W. Bush administration appointee, was also asked about the fact that he voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. He explained his vote as largely due to his preference for Obama’s fiscal policies over McCain’s. Donnelly criticized Kashkari’s involvement in overseeing distribution of TARP funds in the Wall Street bailout. 

In post debate wrap-up, John and Ken commented on Kashkari’s style of attack and Donnelly’s more measured approach. The consensus was that each had adopted a strategy consistent with his relative positions in recent polling, which shows Donnelly leading Kashkari by a wide margin. While Kashkari’s poll position encouraged him to attack and to raise controversial subjects, Donnelly seemed to play it safe.

Kashkari has reportedly been pushed by Texas political consultant Karl Rove as the California Republicans' best candidate “to lose to Jerry Brown” in November’s general election.

A post-debate email from the Kashkari campaign touted the choice between the candidates as being “a clear choice between two very different futures for the California Republican Party,” in the words of Kashkari Campaign Manager Pat Melton.

Donnelly’s campaign emails the evening of the debate focused on the grassroots volunteers that will be walking neighborhoods in support of Donnelly this weekend, while calling for any additional support to get their message out to voters and “ensure our victory.”

California’s current governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, declined to participate int he debate. In his absence organizers hung a skeleton in a shirt and tie. When asked about the skeleton by a reporter, Brown declined to comment, reported the Sacramento Bee. He did, however criticize John and Ken, claiming they have turned down Brown’s volume in the past when he has made any “impressive point.” John responded in the midst of the debate, repeatedly saying that Brown’s claim was a complete lie.

Brown remains strongly in the lead in polling that puts Donnelly in the number two spot and Kashkari in third.


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