The massive pool of candidates looking to unseat Gavin Newsom as California governor has a new addition.
Conservative talk show host Larry Elder announced his bid for governor on Monday. Elder, who hosts the Larry Elder Show on the Salem Media Network, explained that he was hesitant to join the race: “This is a change of heart for me.… I’d love to serve. I’d hate to have to run.” He says that California’s poor condition under Newsom forced him to rethink the idea of running for governor: “Newsom has made those excuses irrelevant.”
“I am a native son of California,” Elder told The American Spectator. “I grew up here. I love this state. I hate what’s happening with rising crime, out-of-control homelessness, and the outrageous cost of living.”
The radio show host’s campaign went after Newsom’s hypocritical behavior during the pandemic: “Newsom imposed the most restrictive COVID mandates in the country — and then [proceeded] to ignore them when it came to him.” The governor was criticized for dining maskless with other public officials in November 2020 while California was still under his mask mandate.
Under Newsom’s leadership, California’s public schools switched to remote learning in March 2020 and plan to continue operating under COVID-19 restrictions, even as other states announce reopening in the fall with no mention of restrictions. In June, California’s largest teacher’s union moved to defend Newsom in the recall election. Elder seized on this point, telling The American Spectator, “We need choice in education, something that will never happen because the current governor is embedded with the teachers union.”
Elder’s work extends far beyond radio. The black conservative holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and has written multiple books, including Dear Father, Dear Son: Two Lives … Eight Hours and Double Standards: The Selective Outrage of the Left. Elder also produced the well-received 2020 documentary Uncle Tom: An Oral History of the American Black Conservative, an exposé of the black conservative movement with appearances from Thomas Sowell, Herman Cain, Candace Owens, and current Texas gubernatorial hopeful Allen West.
Elder has not shied away from controversy, including marked criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. Elder sharply rebuked the movement’s call to “disrupt the Western-prescribed, nuclear family” and called widespread corporate donations to BLM a “bad idea.” According to Elder, “Black Lives Matter leaders don’t really want the vision of MLK.” The real reason, says Elder, is far more sinister: “They want a color-coordinated society — as long as they’re the ones who do the coordinating.”
More recently, Elder was accused of “obscur[ing] the role of history” and “rarely talk[ing] about the institutional forces that victimize real people” in his work. A recent piece from the Los Angeles Times targeted Elder as a dissenting voice against current racial narratives, with journalist Jean Guererro claiming that the black conservative had “found a niche enabling white victimhood.”
Elder seems unfazed by this criticism. His campaign site outlines his commitment to principles over race politicking: “What happened to judging each other on the content of their character. You see, our national motto is e pluribus unum — out of many, one! And I believe that with all my heart and soul!”
While Elder possesses a strong resume, he is far from the only candidate looking for Newsom’s seat. According to a Monday estimate, 57 candidates have entered the race. Twenty-six candidates are Republicans, including Assemblymember Kevin Kiley and former state Sen. Ted Gaines. The September 14 recall election has generated considerable press, particularly after former Olympic gold medalist and reality TV sensation Caitlyn Jenner entered the race. “I am a proven winner and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as governor,” said Jenner, who entered the race on April 23 as a Republican.
Republican candidates like Elder and Jenner are fighting an uphill battle — the GOP currently makes up 24.1 percent of California voters, with Democratic voters occupying 46.1 percent of the voting population. The state has not had a Republican governor since Arnold Schwarzenegger left office in 2011.
A May 2021 survey from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 57 percent of California voters would vote to retain Newsom, while 40 percent would vote for a recall.
Meanwhile, Newsom is committed to fighting to retain the governor’s seat. Newsom told NPR that “I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down” and characterized his opposition as “anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces” despite the 16 Democrats running for his office.
Despite the difficult uphill battle, Elder remains undeterred by the massive number of candidates: “I am in it to win it…. I will make clear that I am the man to replace him [Newsom].” While he was realistic about the state’s many failures, his sentiment to The American Spectator was one of hope and ambition: “We’ve got a state to save.”
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