The grumpy cat stares into the distance. “Students?” The text asks. “No.”


A bit confused? The image is one of dozens of attempts Republican gubernatorial candidate Abel Maldonado has made at translating criticisms of Gov. Jerry Brown’s policies into Internet-friendly memes. (The idea here being that Brown isn’t prioritizing education, and is spending Prop. 30 revenue elsewhere.)

In another Maldonado meme, Brown is presented as a bureaucratic Most Interesting Man In The World. “I don’t always govern California,” it says. “But when I do, I stay for over 10 years.” Maldonado posted it last month, asking followers to “RT if (they) agree it’s time for new leadership in California.”

Rick Rolling it’s not. McKayla would not be impressed at these meme attempts. But the strategy highlights the out-of-the-box tactics that Maldonado and other Republican candidates will need to embrace to compete in a race where they’ll be outgunned and outspent.

“Abel Maldonado will not be governor if he runs a nice, little sweet campaign,” adviser Fred Davis told the L.A. Times after the Republican came under fire for a no-holds-barred assault on Brown’s realignment plan that featured a mug shot of a frightening-looking murder suspect.

“It’s part of a campaign,” Maldonado said of the social media jokes.  “It’s kind of a nicer tongue-in-cheek way to get people focused on what the issue is. Because to be frank with you, I’m not getting any help from anybody.”

“Tell Me The Worst Teacher”

Maldonado isn’t the only Republican candidate experimenting with offbeat campaign tactics. During a recent interview, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly outlined plans for what he called a “guerrilla grassroots” campaign to drum up support for education reform.

“I’m going to raise a half-million dollars,” said the Southern California Republican, who brought in $83,000 during the last fundraising period. “I’m going to hold a press conference and tell them, ‘Tell me the worst teacher. I want the worst teacher story. I want to know who the worst teacher in California is.’ … We’ll have thousands of people send in videos.” Donnelly said after his campaign picks out a “winner,” it will offer $250,000 to the teacher’s school district to fund the lengthy teacher dismissal process.

The other $250,000, Donnelly said, would be used to find the state’s best teacher, and allow him or her to travel around California sharing techniques and practices. “The key to this campaign is going to be getting people involved who might have never been involved in politics before. And we’re going to do it by organizing around issues that people care about.”

Click here for a broader look at the early race for California governor. 

  • Jim Reilley

    Grumpy Cat is nonpartisan = she hates everyone!

    • thisone

      This is the truth.


Scott Detrow

Sacramento bureau chief Scott Detrow covers state government, politics and policy for KQED News and its statewide news program, The California Report.

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