GLENDALE ( — Trailing by nearly 20 points in the polls and even further behind in campaign cash, Republican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari believes he has found an issue that may lift his cause into a tight race with Gov. Jerry Brown.

KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports that when Nestlé USA announced this week it would close a production plant in Chatsworth and moving hundreds of jobs to Kentucky, Kashkari charged it was one more example of the wave of manufacturing jobs leaving California for a better business climate at the expense of the middle class.

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“This is just the latest in a long line of businesses that have decided to take their jobs outside of California,” Kashkari said.

“A lack of jobs leads to the destruction of the middle clas, what leads to poverty. These problems … poverty, income inequality, an eroding middle class … these are manmade problems. We’ve done this to ourselves with regulations that have gotten out of control,” he said.

Jack Pitney, political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said he believes Kashkari has some ammunition.

“What he’s trying to emphasize is that California is not as in as good of economic shape as the incumbent administration says,” Pitney said. “By one measure, California has the highest poverty rate in the United States. If you look at the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, combination of employment and unemployment, California is tied for the highest rate of unemployment, tied with Nevada,” he added.

Kashkari cites Toyota and other companies that have moved jobs out of California in the past year, and blames Brown.

This, despite Nestlé’s failure to mention California’s business climate in its statement about its move, reading: “Hot Pockets production will be consolidated at our Mount Sterling, Kentucky, factory after exhaustive analysis showing that it is the right decision for our business. California is an important place for Nestle to do business. It is our U.S. headquarters and home to over 7,200 employees in 49 locations.”

State and federal data indicate manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles County have declined by more than 50 percent in the last 24 years, far higher than the national average.

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Pitney says Kashkari is trying to appeal to middle-class voters with his recent claims.

“That’s where the votes are. The middle class constitutes a huge fraction of the electorate,” Pitney said.

But Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development says according to the Employment Development Department, the state’s outlook has improved.

“California has added manufacturing jobs each of the past three years. That is the first time that has happened in over a decade,” said Brook J. Taylor, deputy director of communications.  “In 2013, California led the nation in private-sector job creation. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over five years.”

Brown’s office also pointed out there have been successes like the Sriracha hot sauce plant, which decided to stay in Irwindale despite having been courted by Texas and other states.

Kashkari’s proposed solutions for the departing jobs include generous tax breaks for companies that move to California from other states, and big increases in California oil and gas production, including fracking.


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