Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown undecided on debating Neel Kashkari

MEXICO CITY – Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he has not yet decided if he will debate Republican Neel Kashkari in this year’s lopsided gubernatorial race, while Brown’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, suggested Kashkari is getting abundant air time with his frequent appearances on talk radio.

“I haven’t made up my mind,” Brown said. “I’m going to take that up later in the year, because we’ve got time.”

Brown has been pressed by Kashkari to debate him 10 times, echoing the call Brown himself made four years ago in his race against Meg Whitman.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee at the end of a four-day visit to Mexico, Brown said “there were no incumbents in that race” and that, with Whitman’s significant financial advantage he was “looking at alternate pathways to the voters.”

Brown this year enjoys a massive fundraising advantage over Kashkari, as well as a large lead in public opinion polls. With no money to spend on advertising, Kashkari has spent hours guest hosting talk radio shows.

“This time Neel Kashkari has become a radio talk show host,” said Gust Brown, the governor’s special counsel. “And in fact we’re going to have to figure out how to rectify, how to overcome all of the free (air) he’s gotten.”

Brown has all but ignored Kashkari in his bid for a fourth term, with almost no public campaigning so far this year. Asked at a news conference earlier Wednesday what he hoped voters would take away from his talks in Mexico on trade, immigration and the environment, Brown told a reporter, “Well, they’ll probably take away whatever you give them.”

He said “generally the traditional domestic issues in California are most salient” in elections, with less attention given to the longer-term issue he said he was discussing here.

“So that’s why I say this will not be as interesting to you, and therefore your readers,” he said, “than many topics that I can only imagine as I sit here this morning.”

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