Capitol Alert

Train rides and Twitter: Five takeaways from the Brown/Kashkari campaign

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari both speak during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Sept. 4, 2014.
Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Republican challenger Neel Kashkari both speak during a gubernatorial debate in Sacramento, Sept. 4, 2014. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool

Gov. Jerry Brown won re-election so effortlessly last year that dissecting the contest would hardly seem necessary. But the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies gave the race two hours of analysis at a conference on Saturday. From a train ride that didn’t happen to the social media lives of dogs, here are five things we learned about the campaign:

1. Brown, who held few traditional campaign events and ran minimal advertising in his thumping of Republican Neel Kashkari, wanted to “do a train trip” before the general election, said Dana Williamson, Brown’s cabinet secretary. She did not elaborate, but this would have been Brown’s take on the traditional bus tour or campaign fly-around, which Brown used in the final days of his 2010 campaign.

Brown’s advisers scuttled the plan.

“We said that was a bad idea,” Williamson said.

2. Kashkari might not have spent a week posing as a homeless man in Fresno had the mayor of that city, state controller candidate Ashley Swearengin, developed a relationship with Kashkari ahead of time, according to Kashkari adviser Aaron McLear. He said Kashkari’s team reached out to Swearengin “several times” and didn’t hear back. He said Kashkari’s campaign picked Fresno because of the city’s economic problems and did not give any thought to how highlighting the location might affect Swearengin’s campaign.

“If we had established a relationship with (Swearengin), it might be different,” he said.

3. Everyone suspected this, but there was more than a medical reason behind Kashkari’s argument about whether he should be allowed to stand – not sit – for the only general election debate. McLear, who said at the time that Kashkari had a bad back and would be more comfortable standing, suggested Saturday that a bigger reason was tactical.

“The reason he wanted to stand and not sit on a stool was because he felt like he needed to be more assertive and more aggressive during that debate,” McLear said.

Debate organizers resisted, citing production concerns, and the candidates ended up in seats. McLear said after the panel discussion that Kashkari’s bad back was also a consideration in his desire to stand.

4. Kashkari, a prolific user of Twitter, was given a list of Twitter handles, including consultants for the opposition, with whom he could not engage in back-and-forth online.

McLear said an early effort to get Kashkari to run tweets by his advisers, however, failed, lasting only about an hour.

5. Also from the Twitter files: The popularity of Brown’s dog, Sutter, has rubbed off on other politicians. Kashkari maintained a social media presence for his massive Newfoundland dogs, Newsome and Winslow. McLear joked, “We saw the Sutter Brown play, and we were just trying to run that same play.”

He added, “It wasn’t as effective.”

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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