SAN JOSE -- Republicans in California and across the nation must pitch a bigger tent, Neel Kashkari, one of two GOP candidates for governor, told the San Jose State University College Republicans on Thursday night.
Asked what the main differences are between him and conservative Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, Kashkari said he hasn't studied Donnelly's platform but believes that as a moderate he can attract more voters both back to the GOP and to the voting booth in November.
"I want to make the Republican Party an inclusive party" offering positive economic ideas, said Kashkari, 40, of Laguna Beach. "We need to bring more people into our tent."
California isn't the economic rebound story that Democrats want everyone to believe, Kashkari said, noting that the state still has a high jobless rate and the highest poverty rate in America.
Kashkari said that if Californians "unlock the private sector to grow the economy" and improve schools, other problems such as crime will take care of themselves. But he also wants to "rebuild and re-energize the Republican Party in California" by spreading this message, he said.
"These issues are not only issues that can unite Republicans, but they're issues that can bring (independent voters) back into the party and can win over some moderate Democrats," he said.
Kashkari told the gathering of about 20 students that all opportunities were open to him because his parents, who were immigrants from India, believed in the value of a good education.
"Higher education has been the ticket to success in my life," yet tuition increases have abounded in California in recent years, said Kashkari, an asset manager and former assistant U.S. treasury secretary.
One reform might be to change the funding formula so that state universities and colleges aren't paid per student, but based on the efficiency of getting those students through to graduation, he said.
Kashkari said another idea might be to put more class content online to make it more accessible, while cutting costs.
Answering a student's question, Kashkari said the science behind climate change is compelling, but a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions like the one California has implemented will merely drive carbon-emitting businesses -- and the jobs they offer -- elsewhere. Any solution needs to be national or international, he said.
Strengthening the state's economy, meanwhile, will provide more tax revenue and give the state more leeway to enact environmental protections.
Kashkari also noted that as a gun owner, he has no problem with background checks as a means of keeping guns out of criminals' hands.