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Neel Kashkari bags prized Republican endorsements

world Updated: Apr 29, 2014 12:19 IST
Yashwant Raj

The Republican Party establishment is rallying behind Indian-American Neel Kashkari, who is running for governorship of California. But can he swing the party nomination?

Former president George W Bush, his brother Jeb Bush — possibly a candidate for the White House in 2106 — and the 2012 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney have endorsed him.

And so have a host of Republican Party leaders such as the chairman of the all-powerful House oversight committee, Darrell Issa, according to the Kashkari campaign.

Kashkari is a former US treasury department official who, as part of President Bush's economic recovery team, designed the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008.

The US economy was in a tailspin then with increasingly dire implications for a closely interlinked international economy— including India's — caused by the sub-prime crisis.

The rescue programme put together by Kashkari, his boss, treasury secretary Hank Paulson, and future treasury secretary Tim Geithner, worked despite widespread reservations

Kashkari's parents came to the US from India 50 years ago. His father taught engineering at a local college and his mother worked at a community hospital.

Kashkari grew up in Ohio, studied engineering at the University of Chicago and moved to California after graduation to work at a firm that produced technology for NASA's space missions.

He was on the move again, joining Wharton School of business at the University of Pennsylvania. And was soon an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, in San Francisco.

In 2006, Bush tapped Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson to be his next treasury secretary. Kashkari, who had met Paulson only once, left a congratulatory message on his voicemail.

Paulson got back with a job offer, the next day.

The governorship will not be as smooth. Kashkari has trailed in the polls badly and Los Angeles Times has called him "virtually unknown" with limited ability to raise funds.

Kashkari is up against state assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a favourite of the Tea Party, a stridently conservative wing of the Republican Party, who is raising prodigiously.

In California's election system, which is different from the rest of the country, the primaries will throw up top two candidates, who can be either from the two parties separately or from one.

Governor Jerry Brown remains popular and is likely to prevail for another term, according to even the most conservative of conservatives including some Indian Americans.

But he has the prized endorsements.

"Democrats' big-government policies have hurt the middle class and reduced opportunity for Americans across the country, and that's the reason it's so important to elect leaders like Neel Kashkari who understand how to jumpstart the private sector, fix our schools and get people working again," said Romney.

"Republicans in California and across the nation must unite behind candidates who will fight for our Party's principles of fiscal responsibility and hard work – and I believe Neel is that candidate," the former president added.