As I noted in my June election report, Governor Jerry Brown will be facing Republican challenger Neel Kashkari in California’s gubernatorial race.

There one and only debate between them was held Thursday. Prior to the event, conservatives in California were wondering if, given the fact Brown holds a tremendous lead in the polls, Kashkari would decide to throw caution to the win and aggressively attack Brown’s recent record in office.

After a slow start, it appears that the answer was yes:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s long-shot Republican challenger blasted him for failing to do enough to land a Tesla battery plant Thursday during the only scheduled debate of this year’s governor’s race, a testy, hour-long exchange.

It appears that was a winning approach, as word of Kashkari’s excellent performance spread through the world of social media on Friday.

Neel Kashkari was trending on Facebook Friday, following Thursday night’s heated Gubernatorial Debate with Jerry Brown.

@neelkashkari trending on Facebook after his debate with Gov. Brown! @masonharrison #CAGOV pic.twitter.com/olzhZCo1yE
— Tyler Johnson (@GOPTJ) September 5, 2014

The fact that the Republican candidate for governor appeared as a trending news item on the massive social media site, which touts a worldwide scope and range of 1.3 billion users, served as a testament to Kashkari’s successful performance as he delivered strong comebacks to Jerry Brown’s jabs and low blows:

@neelkashkari your debate was amazing! Your the prefect combo for this state environment,business,gay rights&education #NeelkashKari #CAGov
— Stephie McCall (@StephieMcCall) September 5, 2014

However, perhaps the most intriguing part of the discourse was what Brown may have revealed about his future plans.

In Thursday night’s debate between Gov. Jerry Brown and Neel Kashkari, the candidates sounded pretty scripted until Brown was asked about California’s ability to deal with its huge pension shortfalls.

Brown depicted that as an absurd question for a wealthy state with a proud history and vast resources. “Are we in Arkansas or Mississippi? This is the eighth-largest economy in the world,” he declared.

…Jerry has had bad blood with the most famous Arkansan of our time since early 1992. That is when, during a Democratic presidential candidate debate, he alleged that Gov. Bill Clinton had funneled state money to the Little Rock law firm of his wife, Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton was, er, peeved. Here’s a link to a great short clip in which Bill tells Jerry off.

In Thursday night’s debate, Brown could have made his haughty point a number of ways.

He could have said Mississippi and West Virginia. He could have said Mississippi and Alabama. He could have said Mississippi and Louisiana.

Given the weak start of Hillary Clinton’s presumed 2016 presidential campaign, I sense Brown is planning to challenge the “presumed nominee” status.

However, loss of the Tesla plant has really hurt Brown’s attempt to paint himself as a “business friendly Democrat”…especially since the records related to that deal aren’t being made public.

Governor Jerry Brown’s administration is refusing to release public records detailing California’s failure to woo Tesla Motors to build their $5 billion gigafactory in the Golden State.

The state’s public records could verify the governor’s alleged claim that the reason California lost the multibillion dollar deal with the automaker to Arizona is because “Tesla wanted a massive upfront cash payment that I don’t think would be fair to the taxpayers of California.”

While do not expect any grand surprise in California’s November election results, the finally tally may be far closer that anyone can imagine. And, I think Kashkari shows how some good strategy for conservative nominees in 2016 elections.

I also suspect Brown’s team is happy the interactions were limited to one debate.

[Image – from YouTube]