At this point in the 2010 California gubernatorial cycle, Meg Whitman was in the process of bludgeoning primary opponent State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner with a barrage of attack ads, mostly accusing her conservative rival of being a Nancy Pelosi clone. For Californians unfortunate enough to be TV viewers, it was a foretaste of eMeg’s Death Star approach to the general election campaign, which by most accounts backfired despite or because of her total expenditure of $143 million.

The Republican Establishment candidate this time around, Neel Kashkari, does not have to win a partisan primary; thanks to the Top Two Primary system inaugurated in 2012, he need only finish second to Jerry Brown in a nonpartisan June primary to earn a slot in the November general election.

Trouble is, Kashkari is currently running sixth, as the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Carla Marinucci reports:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari was already facing an uphill climb to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year, and now a new poll shows just how steep that hill is — he’s trailing a registered sex offender.

The private poll shows the one-time federal bailout czar lagging behind not just Brown but also a field of Republicans that includes Glenn Champ, who was put on the state’s sex offender registry after he was convicted in 1993 of two counts of assault with intent to commit rape. Before his professed conversion to Christianity, Champ also killed a man while driving and was convicted of soliciting a prostitute.

Kashkari is also trailing other Republicans running against Brown, including Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), Mayor Andrew Blount of the Orange County town of Laguna Hills, and a political unknown named Alma Marie Winston.

So Kashkari will probably have to spend some of his precious horde of campaign funds to beat the sex offender Champ, the former Minuteman Donnelly, and the unknowns. And should the Republican voters he’s expecting to attract finally notice him, yes, as Marinucci alludes to, he’ll have to deal with the fact that he was the federal administrator of TARP at the end of the Bush administration. A lot of conservatives would probably prefer a sex offender.

This is all good news for Jerry Brown, who has already raised $20 million compared to Kashkari’s $1.3 million. But it’s more generally a sign of the pathetic condition of the once-proud California GOP.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.