A post on Capitol Public Radio’s website asking What GOP’s Governor’s Race? reflects the attitude of a number of political observers that the Republican effort to prevent a fourth term for Governor Jerry Brown is not building much momentum.
Brown has effectively implemented his philosophy of rowing his political canoe a little on the left and a little on the right to keep potential opponents at bay. Republicans seeking the office have to build a sizeable war chest. Yet, donors for the most part are keeping their hands away from their wallets.
Meanwhile, the governor will have little problem raising money to compete… if he needs it. All the while he has his name in the paper every day. The new Field Poll strengthens the notion that Brown is in good position to get re-elected.
Some are suggesting the 2014 contest could end up much like the most recent U.S. Senate race in California, in which veteran and well-known incumbent senator Dianne Feinstein overwhelmed her little known Republican opponent. (For those who forgot, her name was Elizabeth Emken.)
Republican opponents who have indicated a willingness to take on the incumbent need to build name ID. Least known is former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is in but starts with a small base from which to launch a statewide office run. Best known of the candidates expressing interest in the job is former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado. However, Maldonado does not have a unified Republican Party cheering on his candidacy.
Maldonado has built his opposition to Brown by opposing the governor’s realignment program for prisoners. Maldonado has launched an initiative to undo the program. He has to make sure the measure qualifies for the ballot. Abandoning the measure or falling short of the signatures needed to qualify would seriously undercut his credibility as a statewide candidate.
Republicans have been known to rely on well-to-do candidates to run for the governorship. Think of the last three GOP gubernatorial nominees: Bill Simon, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman. We may see other Republican candidates step forward to make a race against Brown – perhaps one who can fund a full-fledged campaign.
Perhaps more interesting to those who treat political contests like horse races is to look down the road to the following gubernatorial contest of 2018. Assuming the re-election of Jerry Brown, the 2018 gubernatorial race will be wide open and there are many potential well-known possible candidates on the Democratic side.
The list includes Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Rumor in political circles has it that billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is also eyeing the post. While he lacks the name ID of the other potential contenders, the race is years away. His activity on ballot measures could change the ID situation, as could some of his money.
Additional candidates might emerge. Some have mentioned a possible run by San Jose mayor Chuck Reed. Who knows, by then San Francisco mayor Ed Lee or new Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti might get the itch for the big state office.
Republicans need to focus on the next election with hopes of turning the party’s fortunes around before the 2018 election gets on their radar.
For now, concentration will be on whether any of the Republican candidates can find an opening, perhaps hoping that figuratively, as well as literally in the case of Brown’s pet project, the High Speed Rail, the governor’s train somehow goes off track.