Vast swaths of the state largely have been left out of the economic recovery, the San Joaquin Valley in particular. So it was interesting to see California's Republican gubernatorial nominee, Neel Kashkari, spend a week in Fresno posing as a homeless man searching for work.
Politicians must attract attention. That generally costs money. Gov. Jerry Brown, Kashkari's opponent, has $22 million banked for his re-election bid this fall. Kashkari is very much behind: He had to donate $2 million to his campaign to get 19% of the primary vote against Assembly Member Tim Donnelly, a tea party favorite.
Kashkari, a former investment banker for Goldman Sachs and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury, wrote about his homeless sojourn in the Wall Street Journal -- perhaps hoping that he might shake some Wall Street money loose for his face-off against Brown.
Now that he has left Fresno, we have a question for Kashkari: How about you convince a few of your Wall Street friends to invest in worthy Valley companies and start-ups?
It is not surprising to see Kashkari taking risks and going guerrilla. He has been hosting radio call-in shows, generating name ID and buzz while he works on his fundraising. The most recent polls have him about 20 points down; that's a lot of ground to make up before November.
Kashkari's latest gimmick to get into the media spotlight is highlighted in a 10-minute video. He takes a Greyhound from Los Angeles to Fresno, with $40 in his pocket, and a backpack, and looks for a job -- all the while followed by two videographers.
Unshaven, Kashkari sleeps in parks and parking lots, talking to various poverty-stricken Californians along the way. He notes the No. 1 priority for California is job creation, and pointedly says that "we know how to do this."
Undeniably, Kashkari has a point. But, as a millionaire, Kashkari can return to his lifestyle after the week is over. And if Kashkari really wanted work while on his trek, he would have showered more than once and offered a resume to prospective employers. He also might have sought work in parts of Fresno other than downtown.
We don't question Kashkari's sincerity in taking a week to see what homelessness is like, and he has made poverty a theme in his campaign. However, Kashkari spends much of his time on the campaign trail blasting Brown's efforts to bring a high-speed rail line right through the heart of where he spent the week. Kashkari refers to it as a "crazy train."
While the California High-Speed Rail Authority has made mistakes and funding questions remain, the bullet-train project -- not to mention the jobs it would bring to Fresno and the entire Valley -- isn't crazy.