FRESNO (KCBS) – Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari has taken his campaign to the streets – literally – as he recently spent a week living as a homeless person in the Central Valley, as he searched for a job.
The GOP candidate penned an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that was published Thursday. He said earlier this month, he took a bus from Los Angeles to Fresno with $40 in his pocket, turning to park benches and parking lots to sleep at night, as he tried to find a job.
“We often overlook the Central Valley. So I said, let’s go to Fresno, let’s see what’s happening in the Central Valley, let’s see if an able-bodied 41-year-old can get work, doing anything – packing boxes, sweeping floors, doing dishes, anything. And I couldn’t get a job at all and ended up homeless as a result,” Kashkari told KCBS. “The notion that California is back just rings hollow for many Californians.”
Kashkari said this acted as a test of sorts to disprove Governor Jerry Brown’s claim that the state is making a comeback after the economic downturn. And for those questioning whether this was just a campaign stunt? Kashkari said it gave him a taste for a region of the state that is still struggling economically.
“We interviewed many, many people who live in Fresno full-time. They spoke up and [said] we need jobs, we want our kids to get a good education, we want good jobs, we want real economic opportunities,” he said. “Fresno has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of California. There’s not enough water for the farms, factories are leaving the state, and people are struggling.”
Kashkari said during the six nights he was in Fresno, he slept wherever he could find space, whether it was a park bench or a parking lot. He said he was often woken up in the middle of the night by police or security, who would ask him to move. Kashkari said he showered one time and was fortunate to find a homeless shelter that provided food and services.
The 41-year-old said his experience further exemplified the need to continue to grow the economy in the state, including creating more jobs.
KCBS has reached out to Governor Brown for comment, but we have not heard back from his office.
KCBS, KPIX 5 and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier said the reason for Kashari actions is to provide his campaign much needed traction.
“Jerry Brown is sitting there with high approval ratings,” he said. “He has the whole democratic machine behind him and he’s got $20 million in the bank and he’s not even debating Neel Kashkari who’s sitting there with about $200,000 in the bank and very little media attention.”