GOP - Shooting Itself in Head

By Michael Finnegan and Seema Mehta
September 20, 2014

It was a double indignity for Neel Kashkari this weekend when not just one but two fellow Republicans on November’s statewide ballot declined to endorse his campaign to oust Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

When Kashkari reached for an analogy Saturday to describe the party fracture, he invoked the Costa Concordia cruise ship that ran aground off Italy in 2012, killing 32 people.

“When a ship hits the rocks, it’s a human tendency to run for a lifeboat,” he said. “I understand that. I’m trying to keep everyone in the ship, and right the ship, and get the ship moving again.”

Such was Kashkari’s fate as California Republicans met in Los Angeles for a convention that was supposed to celebrate the party’s unity.

The gathering opened on a sour note Friday, when the evening’s keynote speaker, state controller candidate Ashley Swearengin, told reporters she was still mulling whether to vote for Kashkari or Brown. “I’m looking at the two candidates like other Californians are,” she said.

And Pete Peterson, the Republican running for secretary of state, said in an interview that he was not endorsing Kashkari — or anyone else on the statewide ballot — and did not plan to vote a straight party ticket.

The extraordinary display of disunity led Ron Nehring, a former state Republican chairman and underdog candidate for lieutenant governor, to vent his fury in a profanity-tinged email to party brass just before midnight Friday, after news organizations began reporting the dust-up.

“This does NOT help the party, and it distracts from the efforts made to convey a positive theme,” Nehring wrote. “The coverage is not of a party expanding its reach. It’s about a party that isn’t unified because its candidates can’t get it together and get on the same page.”

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