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GOP gubernatorial candidates vie for supporters

BURLINGAME, Calif. (AP) - The ongoing struggle over the direction of the GOP played out this weekend as the California Republican Party met at its convention: The party in California and elsewhere is torn between supporters who want to steadfastly hold to conservative principles and those who want to take a more moderate, pragmatic approach that could resonate with a broader cross section of voters.

The choice could not be more clear than in the two Republicans vying to challenge Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. Tim Donnelly is a conservative state assemblyman who advocates expanding gun rights, and Neel Kashkari is a former U.S. Treasury official who wants to focus on the economy and education.

Kashkari is clearly in the expansion camp.

"The Republican Party in 2012 was cast as the party of no, the party that doesn't like different, diverse communities, the party that's only for old, rich white guys," Kashkari, 40, told the gay group Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday.

"The new Republican Party that I want to build is the diverse Republican Party. ... Every ethnicity, every sexual orientation, every lifestyle, everyone is welcome. The biggest tent you've ever seen in your life," he said.

The GOP has been steadily losing support in California for two decades, and registration has slipped below 29 percent. The party has struggled to win over younger voters and minorities, and party Chairman Jim Brulte said broadening the party's reach to potential new voters is a top priority this election year.

Still, the delegates who typically attend party conventions are among the most active and passionate, so many of those at the weekend gathering in Burlingame were sporting "Donnelly for governor" stickers.

"The only thing Republican about Kashkari is the 'R' after his name," said Judi Neal, a member of the Pasadena Republican Women Federated. "I don't think he's capable of reaching out to conservatives."

Christopher Cole, who is chairman of the party in Lassen County in far northeastern California, said a moderate candidate would have a tough sell wooing conservatives in his county.

"We respect all candidates, but I think Tim's probably got the heart and soul of the county, particularly on hot-button issues like guns," Cole said. "I'm thinking about inviting Neel up there, but I don't know how his reception would be."

Kashkari did not address a conservative group that met Saturday morning, and the California Republican Assembly endorsed Donnelly, 47, a lawmaker from the San Bernardino community of Twin Peaks. Likewise, Donnelly did not appear at the Log Cabin Republicans meeting.

One of the issues that has energized conservative activists is a law signed by Brown that allows transgender students to access the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice. A proposed ballot initiative to repeal the law failed to gather enough signatures to qualify.

"It is not about homosexuality, and it is certainly not about transgender students - it's going to turn them into targets," Donnelly told the conservatives. "We are going to unite parents against this stupid law."

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is now a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, implored Republicans to unite around a shared vision of the nation during a luncheon address.

"California needs to be rebuilt, too, around these principles of individual responsibility and liberty," Rice said to applause.

Both of the California gubernatorial candidates recognize the need to appeal to Latino voters in a state where about half the residents are Hispanic. Their messages to the California Republican National Hispanic Assembly were very different, however.

"I think we have to stop pandering and thinking there is a different message because of someone's skin color, because the colors of freedom are red, white and blue," Donnelly told the group.

Kashkari, who is of Indian heritage, said he deliberately gave his first television interview to the Latino network Univision.

"I said I want your viewers to know they are not an afterthought - they are my first thought," he said.

At Donnelly's convention booth, placed next to a tea party display, volunteers were working a "genius bar" modeled after a feature in Apple stores, demonstrating and installing the campaign's mobile application to potential supporters.

For many of the delegates, this weekend is their first chance to meet Kashkari, who is best known as the former U.S. Treasury official who oversaw the bank bailout at the start of the Great Recession. He recorded an Instagram video before reporters, and his enthusiastic young volunteers handed out bumper stickers and bags of popcorn.

California's top-two open primary means the two candidates with the most votes in June will advance to the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. Whoever advances will likely need to capture voters beyond the Republican base.

Either candidate faces long odds in attempting to defeat the incumbent Brown, who is 75 and seeking an unprecedented fourth term as governor. He has amassed nearly $18 million in contributions and is expected to easily win re-election.

Log Cabin Chairman Charles Moran, a party activist, said he was encouraged that Kashkari supports gay marriage and that Donnelly has said he thinks government should get out of peoples' marriages, whether gay or straight.

"I'm hoping that the party has finally gotten it through their heads that fighting battles on social issues in California will result in losses for Republicans," he said.

Donnelly opposes abortion but said Friday that it is not relevant in the governor's race. But on Saturday he wore on his lapel an anti-abortion pin meant to represent a fetus at 10 weeks, along with a flag pin featuring an American Revolution-era flag. Donnelly declined to discuss the anti-abortion pin when asked.

Donnelly lost his campaign manager in a public falling out earlier this week and has struggled with fundraising, said his message is appealing "way beyond the conservative base."

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
qxz1214 March 16 2014 at 3:23 PM

Good luck with that. The GOP, for years, has had as its priority the interests of the rich and corporations. And exit polls prove that more and more women, minorities, and young people are choosing the Democratic Party because the Republican Party is so out of touch with the average person. This is despite all their rhetoric.

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1 reply
imv qxz1214 March 16 2014 at 3:54 PM

just remember, you never get a "paycheck' from a poor man/woman. The corporations are who pay us. Granted, there are those corrupt interests out there. But, all and all, we need corporations, industry in this country. Using other countries overseas to do the USA's work, is what got America into this mess to begin with. I know, I experienced this when it first started years ago.

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4 replies
GingerDuke March 16 2014 at 9:31 AM

Why doesn't someone just say...hey, I don't care who you are, or what you look like, as long as you are smart with your vote to elect someone, anyone, that will get this country's debt under control and create an environment to create "good" jobs...

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1 reply
Ayden GingerDuke March 16 2014 at 9:37 AM

I do hope you realize the national debt has decreased significantly under Obama...

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7 replies
lugashm March 16 2014 at 8:53 AM

I understand the debate. The fact is it's not about including people of differing skin color, gender, sexual preference, religious beliefs, etc. It's about how all of these people think (individually). It's about what they stand for. Everyone has a set of principles by which they live. The debate should be about these principles. I, for one, cannot compromise my principles for the purpose of gathering more votes. I believe in constitutional conservatism and welcome all who believe in the principles of constitutional conservatism. It's no more difficult than that.

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carnut122 March 16 2014 at 8:55 AM

As an independent voter, I'm looking for somebody to represent me. It's time for the Republican party (and Democrats) to get out of the lobbyists' pockets.

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3 replies
kcarthey March 16 2014 at 9:42 AM

One of the greatest differences in the two major political parties today is a reflection on their positions of the Federal Government v. the roles of the States. The Democrats view the United States as one nation, a unified and strong nation where as the Republicans see the country as a group of separate states, a confederation of states really, losely joined for time of war. That was the failure of the nation prior to the Constitution and may be the failure of the nation 237 years after its adoption. If we need to divide into two separate nations, each based on one of these philosophies, so be it.

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1 reply
palots kcarthey March 16 2014 at 9:46 AM

maybe you didn't hear.
The constitution is 400 years old

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3 replies
scottee March 16 2014 at 8:36 AM

why do we even NEED political parties? really.
why not just vote for the person. the majority wins.
and politicians need fiscal constraints. they should not be able to promise everyone everything in exchange for votes. what if Washington could only spend what they collect? after they collect it?

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1 reply
paul400557 scottee March 16 2014 at 8:55 AM

Freedom...not dictatorship? Does that help?

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1 reply
PHILL AND TRISHA paul400557 March 16 2014 at 9:08 AM


why not ask your boys..the kochs about dictators...their old man loved stalin...and they loved the dictator from Venezuela,chavez!...sucks being you.."the totally uninformed"..

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Tom March 16 2014 at 11:58 AM

The GOP will not come on top if the don't take up the inportant issues. The republicans have to support one another not bicker with each other. They have to get a strong candidate in order to win.Most of their hopefulls are very weak. They only have three candiates that might win. Leave the weak ones at home.

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3 replies
Beautiful March 16 2014 at 9:29 AM

Republicans still have a major problem when they refer to the people they are trying to reach as " The Blacks, The Gays, The Women, The Mexicans"
Using the word "The" is excultionary.

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1 reply
PHILL AND TRISHA Beautiful March 16 2014 at 9:56 AM


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1 reply
Regina4 PHILL AND TRISHA March 16 2014 at 10:12 AM

Like ObamaCare?

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Robert Leonetti March 16 2014 at 8:17 AM


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maryt60 March 16 2014 at 1:41 PM

I think the moniker Kashkari is looking for is, Progressive Republicans. The wing of the party Teddy Roosevelt molded. The wing that has been left to rot in the rush to globalize profits.

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