Candidate for Governor Goes Undercover as Homeless in Fresno

Published 07/31 2014 10:40PM

Updated 07/31 2014 11:58PM

Was it a political ploy or real passion?

Neel Kashkari, a Republican candidate for California governor, is using bold tactics in his campaign efforts.

Kashkari spent a week living on the streets of Fresno undercover as a homeless person.

 He says his goal was to find a job within a week, but he could not.

His team documented the week on video.

"Hey, I just got into town, and I'm looking for work," Kashkari says in the video. He's at a Fresno store looking for a job. 

But the job he's really trying to get is that of California governor.

Undercover with a hidden camera, Kashkari says he spent a week on the streets to bring attention to poverty and unemployment.

He says Governor Jerry Brown often says California is on a comeback, and Kashkari is challenging that. 
But why Fresno?

"Number one, it's the highest unemployment rate big city in California. Number two, it's the heart of the Central Valley, and the Central Valley often gets overlooked by politicians," Kashkari says. 

 He took a Greyhound bus to Fresno with only $40 and a goal--to find a job.

The video he used to document his week shows him looking for low-wage work. 

What Kashkari calls walking a mile in someone's shoes, some call a publicity stunt.

Running against Brown in a Democratic state isn't easy.    

"So when you're a candidate in that position, you need to do something dramatic to bring attention to yourself and to try to get a message out there," says political analyst Thomas Holyoke, who is an assistant professor of political science at Fresno State.

Holyoke says the move was creative and innovative.

But Rev. Larry Arce, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission, believes Kashkari's motives are genuine.

He says Kashkari has met with him several times to learn how the Rescue Mission is tackling poverty.

"Neel Kashkari has gone into the streets, which I wish every politician would go and say, 'I want to see what's going on in the streets,'" Arce says. 

For a week, Kashkari says he slept in parks and empty lots until police told him he had to leave.

He uses Fresno as an example of what he says is wrong with how the state is currently run.

"This has been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I came to Fresno expecting to find a job and take care of myself, but it's been a week and I've found nothing," Kashkari says in the video. 

Political analysts say if nothing else, Kashkari is succeeding in getting his name out there, and name recognition across the state is something he'll need running against Brown.

Kashkari's video documenting his week in Fresno can be found here:

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