(Adds context, background on race, color)
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan 21 A Republican former
investment banker who oversaw efforts to mitigate the U.S.
mortgage meltdown under two presidents said on Tuesday he would
challenge California Governor Jerry Brown for the state's top
job in 2014.
Neel Kashkari, who ran the Troubled Asset Relief Program
(TARP) for the Treasury Department under Republican George W.
Bush and Democrat Barack Obama, said he would challenge Brown on
a platform of creating jobs and improving education.
Brown is widely expected to seek re-election in November.
"Today, the gift of a good education and the opportunity it
creates are out of reach for millions of struggling
Californians. That's why I'm running for governor: to create
jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education.
That's it. That's my platform," Kashkari said in a statement.
Wearing a black suit and red tie, Kashkari formally
announced his candidacy on a ballroom stage at Sacramento State
University, gesturing with his hands as he addressed attendees
at a conference on the regional economy.
"Our schools, employment rate and small-business climate are
ranked near the bottom, and we have the highest poverty rate in
the country," he said. "The status quo our leaders defend is
absolutely devastating for millions of our neighbors."
Brown, who is serving a second round as governor in the most
populous U.S. state, has been fundraising for months, but has
not formally announced his candidacy. The 75-year-old, whose
father was also governor, served two terms from 1975 to 1983.
Kashkari replaces former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado,
a moderate who dropped out of the campaign last week, as a
mainstream Republican hopeful in the race.
A former Goldman Sachs banker, Kashkari most recently
helped develop new initiatives at the southern California-based
Pacific Investment Management Company, or PIMCO.
Kashkari may face an uphill battle against Brown, who is
popular for steering the largely Democratic state on a fiscally
cautious course that many credit for a turnaround in the state's
Last month, a poll conducted by the Field Research Corp
showed that Brown would dominate the field when pitted against
four possible Republican contenders, including Kashkari.
Of registered voters surveyed by the Field Poll, 52 percent
said they would choose Brown, compared with 3 percent who
favored Kashkari, 11 percent who said they would vote for
Maldonado and 9 percent who would pick Republican state lawmaker
Brown has been coy about whether he will run in November,
actively raising funds but resisting a formal announcement. His
political adviser, Dan Newman, did not immediately return a
request for comment about Kashkari's entry into the race.
"I am aware that in November of next year there will be an
election," the Los Angeles Times quoting Brown as saying in
November 2013. "And I will make some decisions regarding that."
Because of California's open primary system, all of the
candidates for governor will appear on a primary ballot in June,
and the two top vote-getters will advance to the general
election in November, whatever their political affiliations.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, G
Crosse and Ken Wills)