Republican Neel Kashkari Announces Candidacy for California Governor
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Sacramento California: Neel Kashkari, the son of Kashmiri immigrants, took the opportunity during his keynote speech at the Sacramento Business Review event held at California State University Sacramento on January 21, 2014 to announce his candidacy for California Governor. At this point it is highly likely that incumbent Governor Jerry Brown (a Democrat) will be running again, but it is not yet confirmed (for this report we waited for Governor Brown’s State of the State speech on November 22nd but did not get his official decision). In any case this announcement by Neel who is often described as a “Moderate Republican”, has added a new level of excitement into the coming race. Governor Brown’s age (he is 75) is sometime brought up as a factor in his upcoming decision but that should not matter to California voters.

The event at the university campus began with an introduction by Roger Niello, President and CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber followed by a warm welcome by Sanjay Varshney, Dean of the College of Business Administration at CSU Sacramento who used his usual humor, wit and charm to get everyone’s attention rather quickly. He said that we were here at this gathering which is the very best business forecast event in town! He added that he was glad to be a part of a team which wants to see the region as more vibrant and business friendly. Sanjay also recognized the dignitaries present including CSU Sacramento President Alexander Gonzalez. He said that this marked the 6th anniversary of the Sacramento Business Review and that during these years the forecasting team has done a very good job. “They have not just been right, they have been near perfect in their predictions,” he said. He also introduced the CFA Society of Sacramento and mentioned the high standards it maintains. He thanked his team for all their hard work and all the sponsors (too numerous to list here) for making this event possible. Sanjay also introduced keynote speaker Neel Kashkari.

Neel started out by sharing his family’s story, how his parents came to America about 50 years ago in pursuit of higher education. He said that they faced a number of unknowns when they were coming here but once his father landed in Detroit Michigan (because that is where he got a scholarship to go to school) and later in Akron, Ohio (because that is where both parents got jobs) they fulfilled their American Dream. He added that his parents knew that their ticket to the middle class here was through education, and that is why they struggled to make sure that his sister and he got a good education. And they certainly succeeded as his sister became a doctor and he an aerospace engineer who moved to California to work on NASA missions and later served in the federal government. “The American Dream is truly an American experience,” he said. This doesn’t happen (to) folks in Germany. It doesn’t happen in France. It doesn’t happen in China. It doesn’t happen in India, only America.”

Neel said that he shared this story because millions of people in California today are struggling, worried about keeping their jobs, worried about keeping a roof over their head and worried about what school they are sending their kids to. He said that more and more regulation coming out of Sacramento is making the state less economically attractive. “This is the state I love,” he said. “I moved here in 1998. I love California. But I can’t believe that our state is failing so many of our people.” He went on to describe the dire condition of schools in the state which now ranks 46th in K through 12 education in the country.

On the jobs front he had more to add. “Almost one in 5 Californians has either no job or is stuck in a part-time job,” he said. He added that we are also ranked 46th in jobs and last in small business. “Dead last. Fiftieth out of 50 states,” he said. He added that almost 24% of Californians live in poverty today. “The status quo is unacceptable,” he said. He added that this was the end of the bad news and the good news was that these problems that we have in California were solvable. “We can absolutely do it.”

He spoke highly of a school in East Palo Alto, California which focused on low income kids with great success, with a high number of them graduating from college. He spoke of the contest between all the states in America to attract jobs but that California was not competing. He gave the example of the State of Alabama attracting the automobile industry and how it succeeded so well in that quest by offering incentives. He said that we can do this in California too and that California does not have to be the cheapest place to do business but we do need to be competitive. He said that major changes need to be made in the state to correct the situation. “There is something that all of you can do and there is something I can do to make it happen.” He added, “Here today I am announcing that I am running for Governor of California.” He said that his platform was “Jobs & Education.”

To conclude, it was great to see a bit of history being made right here in Sacramento with Neel Kashkari, a relatively young candidate of South-Asian descent throwing his hat into the California Governor’s race. Neel and his campaign will certainly have their work cut out for them. Democrats are a majority in the state and the last Republican to become Governor here was Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator) who already had star appeal to begin with, which he used quite effectively to win. But then again one can never rule out the American Dream!

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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