Republican Neel Kashkari, his campaign for governor lagging in the polls, has launched his big pre-election push by airing his first TV ad, putting up $500,000 of his own money, and launching an attack website targeting GOP rival Tim Donnelly.
The former Treasury Department official's offensive launched Monday even as vote-by-mail ballots began going out.
"I'm not a politician, so I actually understand hard work," Kashkari says in the 30-second ad, which depicts him chopping wood. He says he would "cut taxes, move people from welfare to work, and take an ax to wasteful spending" starting with "Jerry Brown's 'crazy train,'" the high-speed rail project.
Campaign spokeswoman Jessica Ng said the ad will run statewide on broadcast and cable channels, but she wouldn't say for how long or at what cost.
The half-million dollars Kashkari is giving his own campaign should help pay for it. Kashkari had enjoyed an initial burst of fundraising as he entered the race in January, but it petered out quickly and he had about $900,000 banked by mid-March -- far more than Donnelly, but a small amount compared to Brown's $19.7 million.
"Since launching his campaign in January, Neel has earned the support of many people who share his vision for California and for the Republican Party, and his contribution only adds to the momentum building behind his campaign," campaign manager Pat Melton said in a news release Monday.
The ad comes after Kashkari's weeklong rollout of endorsements by prominent Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former California Gov. Pete Wilson and others.
But in case positivity doesn't work, Kashkari also is going heavily negative on Donnelly, who has been far ahead of him in most polls.
Kashkari's campaign has launched a "Tim Donnelly: You Can't Be Serious" website that takes the conservative Assemblyman to task for his 2012 gun conviction, for flip-flopping on property rights, for living high on the taxpayers' hog, for having a tax lien against one of his former businesses, and more.
The site claims Donnelly has zero chance of beating Brown, and so Democrats would be "partying in the streets" if he turns out to be the only challenger left standing after June's top-two primary.
Donnelly on Monday called Kashkari's tactics "predictable" and "signs of desperation" given his low standing in most recent polls. "He's not getting any traction."
Though his fundraising has perked up since those polls, Donnelly said he'll continue his grass-roots, in-person campaign efforts through June 3's primary, and also do some radio appearances and ads plus a billboard. "I'm not completely ruling out television, but it probably would not be something we're doing before the primary -- I don't think it's the most effective use of our dollars."