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By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The two main Republicans hoping to take on California Governor Jerry Brown in the fall have failed to vote in many elections, according to documents and interviews.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has cast a ballot in about half of the elections held since 1995, while former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari has voted in roughly 60 percent of elections since he turned 18.

Spotty voting records have dogged previous unsuccessful gubernatorial candidates, including 2010 Republican nominee Meg Whitman and 1998 Democratic candidate Al Checchi. Analysts said that although such revelations do not typically sink a candidacy, they offer Brown an obvious line of attack.

“It isn’t a fatal problem, but it’s a problem,” said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College and a former national GOP official.

“It might be more of a problem for Kashkari, because he’s parachuting into politics,” never having run for elected office, Pitney said. “Donnelly at least can say that he has participated in California government and California issues.”

Voters will take note but are more concerned with issues such as unemployment and the economy, Pitney said.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said Tuesday that voting is a “basic civic duty” and the “simplest possible way to affect public policy and show that you care.”

“For candidates to not vote suggests that their candidacies are more about their personal ambition rather than actually wanting to have an impact on public policy,” Newman said.

Donnelly, a 47-year-old staunch conservative from the Inland Empire town of Twin Peaks and the founder of a Minuteman border-patrol chapter, voted in 19 of 37 elections from 1995 to 2013, according to records provided by the San Bernardino County Elections Office.

The agency does not have voting records before 1995 because it switched record-keeping systems that year, spokeswoman Audilia Lozado said.

Jennifer Kerns, Donnelly’s campaign manager, noted that the lawmaker has voted in every presidential election since 2000, in every gubernatorial contest since 2006 and at other times when there were major ballot measures, such as the 2008 same-sex marriage ban.

“He voted in the elections in which there were pressing issues facing our state,” Kerns said. “It appears he may have missed a few of the local elections … but that may have simply been due to his travel schedule, raising five children and running a small business at the time.”

Kashkari’s campaign said the 40-year-old Laguna Beach millionaire voted in eight of 10 presidential and gubernatorial general elections, and about half of the primaries and local elections for which he was eligible.

A spokesman said his voting became more consistent once he learned, in 2006, that he could cast absentee ballots. Kashkari’s voting record was first reported in The San Francisco Chronicle.

The day after he announced he was running for governor, Kashkari acknowledged that he had not consistently gone to the polls. He cited his decision to leave a lucrative investment banking career at Goldman Sachs to work for the U.S. Treasury Department as proof that he values public engagement.

“I believe voting is critical, and civic participation is critical,” Kashkari told reporters last week. “That’s why I left a very attractive career in the private sector to go serve in the government for three years under two different presidents.”

Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr


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