Gun-toting Tea Partier Rejected by California

The Mitt Romney-favorite and former Treasury official, Neel Kashkari, beat out the Tea Party candidate in California’s gubernatorial primary.

Chris Carlson/AP

In California’s gubernatorial jungle primary Tuesday, natural order was restored as establishment Republicans prevailed over the Tea Party. But while moderate Neel Kashkari beat anti-immigration zealot Tim Donnelly 18% to 15%, the King of the Jungle remained incumbent Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who pulled 55 percent of the vote.

Donnelly, a Republican assemblyman from Twin Peaks, is a former member of the controversial Minuteman project, and is on probation as a result of bringing a loaded gun into an Ontario airport in 2012.

Kashkari, conversely, has himself together. He designed satellites for NASA before working for Goldman Sachs and then getting himself appointed by President George W. Bush to the Department of the Treasury in 2006. He was named assistant secretary of the department in the midst of the financial crisis.

Kashkari, whose name-ID was even lower than Donnelly’s (who had the advantage of at least holding office in the state), had been trailing by an average of six points before this week when his last-minute spending began to close the gap.

Also helping to close the gap: Kashkari’s list of supporters, which reads like the invite list to a dinner party for America’s most influential Republicans. Mitt Romney (who Kashkari says he voted for in 2012 [he says he voted for Obama in 2008]), Jeb Bush, and Condoleezza Rice are all fans. And on Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa said that Kashkari’s success in the primary would be “critical” for the state’s GOP.

Indeed, many believed the outcome of Tuesday’s primary would help to determine the future of California’s GOP, which has been struggling to define its identity amid rapidly shifting demographics in the state. A Donnelly victory would have further divided the already-weak party.

Kashkari is young and Indian-American, and identifies as a social libertarian and fiscal conservative. He also, according to Twitter, disagrees with The Daily Beast’s suggestion that he kind of looks like a bald Ray Romano. Kashkari instead agreed with the Los Angeles Times' Matt Pearce that he looks like “the mummy from The Mummy.”

Asked what’s so bad about looking like a lovable sitcom star, Kashkari tweeted, “He’s soft. We’re not going to fix California’s problems by being lovable.”

It’s a message to which California’s Republican voters have clearly responded.