The 2014 Governor’s race is already well underway in the state of California where Democratic incumbent Governor Jerry Brown is seeking reelection. He was first elected in 2010 when he ran against Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. Neel Kashkari is the Republican challenger to Governor Brown. Kashkari is a former Treasury Secretary official who worked under the Bush and Obama administrations.
On September 5, the first and apparently only debate between the two candidates took place. The two candidates differed widely on a number of positions, leavings voters with a very clear understanding of what each candidate stands for and what makes the different.
Governor Brown predictably spoke on his signature project of building a bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco. This idea has brought on praise by some but also disdain by other who argue public rail projects are poor investments of taxpayer funds.
The recently passed legislation that imposes a statewide ban on all single-use plastic bags was discussed at the debate as well. Governor Brown stated that he would indeed sign that legislation while Kashkari disparaged it. This legislation, argued by some, would be a positive move to protecting the environment from the cruel harms of plastic bags that take up space in landfills and get animals caught up in. Others argue that it will raise the cost of basic activities like shopping for groceries for working families all across the state and is a distraction from more important issues.
The polling looks positive for Governor Brown, as he is polling at some of the highest rates of his tenure in office. Couple this with the fact that Kashkari still has very low name recognition. Only 1 out of every 4 voters recognizes his name, which is terribly low for this late into the campaign.
Governor Brown clearly realizes this fact as he is doing his best to run a low-risk, non-eventful campaign. Incumbents enjoy a large advantage over challenging opponents, one of which is name recognition, another in the case of Jerry Brown is his positive approval rating. He has no real incentive to do or say anything crazy in his campaign that could jeopardize an easy victory over a challenger that is having a difficult time getting his message out to the public. That is probably why Governor Brown gave an extremely vague response when he was asked what he planned to do to tackle rising pension costs in the Golden State.
Perhaps we can see the Governor be a bit more concrete as the we get closer to election day, but as for right now, he is keeping his cards close and playing it safe, which is not at all a bad strategy.
Kashkari on the other hand painted Brown as out of touch due to a 40-year career in government and made the claim that California is 45th in education and 1st in poverty, possibly showing that he would make an emphasis if he were elected to improve the educational system of California and get more jobs for middle-class workers.