According to all accounts, Neel Tushar Kashkari was well received at the California Republican Party Convention -- his first major public exposure after formally declaring his candidacy in January for governor of California
Kashkari, 40, once dubbed the ‘$700 billion man’ for administering the United States Treasury’s bailout of the nation’s leading banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Programme, was described as ‘someone who appeals across all demographics’ at the GOP parley in Burlingame.
There, much of the state’s party hierarchy got an opportunity to meet, interact and hear him make his pitch on why he is the best bet for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
In his remarks, Kashkari focused on canceling California’s proposed bullet train -- which he has been slamming Brown for -- and made a strong pitch for investing more in water storage.
The Stow, Ohio-born and raised Kashkari, a moderate Republican who is pro-choice on issues like abortion and who also believes the Gang of Eight immigration legislation approved by the US Senate is a good starting point, also declared it a top priority to unite all Republicans.
‘We as Republicans are really good at shooting one another,’ Kashkari said. ‘We shoot at one another, the Democrats stand back, they wait till we’re done firing and then they steamroll us. If we are united, we can go take the fight to Sacramento.’
Kashkari, son of Srinagar-born and raised Kashmiri Pandit immigrants Chaman and Sheila Kashkari, said in his speech that in recent years, the California Republican Party ‘has struggled to win over younger voters and minorities. The GOP has been steadily losing support in California for two decades, and registration has slipped below 29 percent.’
This was a theme that had echoed throughout the convention. Party chairman Jim Brulte said broadening the party’s reach ‘to potential new voters is a top priority this election year.’
Reporting from the convention, news agencies, including the Associated Press and Reuters said Kashkari is ‘hoping to reshape the party’s image’ through his candidacy.
Reports noted that he had told many youngsters at the convention that he hopes they will connect with him ‘as the son of immigrants, as somebody young, somebody who looks a little unusual compared to the typical Republican candidate.’
Kashkari had argued that ‘the old image of the GOP as a haven for old rich white guys’ needs to be jettisoned in favor of a party that’s ‘young, diverse,’ and home to ‘the biggest tent you’ve ever seen,’ Carla Marinucci, political columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Kashkari said, ‘I want to make (the Republican Party) a bigger tent, so even more people are welcome.’
The Sacramento Bee quoted him as saying, ‘I have really been pleased how I have been received by a very diverse group of Republican groups here at the convention and around the state… Young people of California can turn the party around and we can show the whole country that there’s a smarter path for Republicans.’
The San Jose Mercury News quoted delegate Larry Molton of Castro Valley, saying that he is ‘a big fan’ of Kashkari, who ‘represents what an alternative to the Democratic Party in California has to be, someone who appeals across all demographics.
Right now, California is a one-party state, and that’s not healthy.’
If nominated, Kashkari could also make ‘strides toward repairing the GOP brand among Latinos,’ Molton added.
Latino voters, Kashkari said at the convention, ‘are not an afterthought -- they are my first thought. You know what Republicans want? They want their kids to get a good education, and they want a good job. That’s the same thing that independents want. That’s the same thing that Democrats want. I think we can unite Republicans and unite Californians around these messages.’
When he launched his campaign in January, Kashkari harked to his Indian roots. He has since then consistently spoken about how his parents immigrated ‘from India 50 years ago to pursue their higher education. My dad taught at the local college and my mom worked at the community hospital. We were a middle class family, and the middle class in America in the 1970s was pretty good…’
‘My mom and dad knew that the ticket to success was through education, so they insisted that my sister and I get a good education. And that one crucial gift has made all the difference in my life.’
‘Today, the gift of a good education and the opportunity it creates are out of reach for millions of struggling Californians. That’s why I’m running for governor -- to create jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education. That’s it. That’s my platform.’
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the University of Illinois, Kashkari moved to California in 1998 to work as a design engineer at TRW in Redondo Beach.
He later earned his master’s of business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and returned to California to help Silicon Valley entrepreneurs raise capital to grow their companies and create jobs.
He was appointed as assistant secretary of the Treasury in 2006 by President George W Bush on the recommendation of Kashkari’s former boss at Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson, then Bush’s treasury secretary.
When the financial crisis erupted, Kashkari was the point man to convince lawmakers from both parties to write and pass landmark TARP legislation to prevent widespread economic collapse.
In December, in an exclusive interview with India Abroad, his first with a South Asian newspaper and any media outlet outside of California, Kashkari said the GOP establishment was solidly behind him when he had broached them with his gubernatorial intent.
He said he had spoken to “several Republican leaders throughout the state and throughout the country. So, whether it’s President George W Bush -- he was one of the first people I solicited, got his advice -- to Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana, has been very helpful.
Also, Jeb Bush (former Florida governor), has been very helpful in educational reform, and Condi (Condoleezza) Rice (former Secretary of State) out here in California. And, all the feedback that I’ve got so far from Republicans around the state and around the country, have been very, very positive.”