“A total shock”: the right-wing opponent leads the recall race in California | California

Larry Elder is a baffling forerunner in the Republican race to replace Gavin Newsom as governor of California.

The outspoken libertarian radio talk show host entered the recall campaign just days before the filing deadline. He rose to the top of a long list of candidates running against the state’s Democratic governor – perhaps both despite and because of his confrontational and contrary policies.

Elder opposes minimum wage and gun control. He said he did not believe there was a gender pay gap and called the climate crisis a “tank.” He suggested that fatherless families increase crime rates in black communities. In three decades on the air, Elder has made a name for himself by broadcasting the controversy.

His most extreme views are not only those of the majority of voters, but also those of many Republicans in the state. And yet, it is not impossible that the self-proclaimed “South Central Sage” will become the next governor of one of America’s bluest states.

A reputation as a right-wing opponent

Elder, 69, was born and raised in south-central Los Angeles. After graduating from Brown University and the University of Michigan, he practiced law for a decade before moving on to the profession of political expert – landing his own show on local station KABC in Los Angeles at early 90s.

In response to his slurs against affirmative action, denials of systemic racism, and allegations that black leaders exaggerate discrimination, a group of LA residents in the 1990s organized a two-and-a-half-year boycott of sponsors of the radio show.

The flyers circulating at the time called it the “White Man’s Poster Boy”. Some advertisers let Elder down, but he eventually prevailed. His show was syndicated and he began to build up a huge national radio audience, making frequent appearances on Fox News and cultivating his brand of libertarianism against the grain.

“He’s been on the radio for 27 years in Los Angeles, talking about tongue-in-cheek and contradictory man-bite-dog politics,” said James Lance Taylor, a political scientist at the University of San Francisco. “And in some ways the only reason he’s able to say a lot of what he says is because he’s black… he uses his race as a weapon.”

Earlier this year, Elder blamed Barack Obama for the deaths of George Floyd and other black men, writing that the former president should have encouraged citizens to better “comply with the police” to avoid getting shot. .

During the coronavirus crisis, he gave a platform to Covid-19 conspiracy theorists, including a self-identified doctor who promoted the false claim that coronavirus vaccines were being pushed in minority communities like ” population control ”. Elder said he was vaccinated but pledged to repeal California mask and vaccine requirements if he wins the governorship.

“Larry Elder shouldn’t be taken seriously,” Taylor said. “But because he has some recognition and a great microphone, he was imposed on us.”

Surprising polls

An election showdown between Elder and Newsom would be highly unlikely, without California’s idiosyncratic recall laws. There are few requirements to appear on the recall bulletin, other than a $ 4,200 application fee. But if more than half of California voters say they want to remove Newsom from office, the remaining candidate with a plurality of votes becomes governor.

This means Elder doesn’t need to win the majority of voters – just enough to beat Newsom’s other opponents. In a recent poll by UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies co-sponsored According to the Los Angeles Times, 47% of likely voters supported the governor’s recall, compared with 50% who opposed Newsom’s impeachment.

Gavin Newsom, who won the 2018 election with a larger share of the vote than any other Democrat in the state’s history, remains widely popular in California. Photography: Santiago Mejia / AP

In response to the second question on the recall ballot – who is expected to replace the governor if more than half of voters choose to impeach him – most said they would avoid answering or were undecided. Eighteen percent said they would choose Elder – more than businessman John Cox, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and state assembly member Kevin Kiley.

If the recall is successful, Newsom, a widely popular governor who won the post with a larger share of the vote than any other Democrat in the state’s history, would be replaced by a marginal candidate whose extreme views don’t even capture. not most state voices. republican base. It would be “a complete shock” to California politics, Taylor said.

A familiar voice to the right

For many Californians, the recall sparked flashbacks to the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Many of Elder’s views and political platforms are consistent with those of Trump. He supported Trump’s migrant family separation policy and became a mentor to the architect of the most severe anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration, Stephen Miller. He has repeatedly asserted that blacks are more prone to crime and violence than other demographic groups, and echoed Trumpian lines that characterized Latino immigrants as criminals.

Although he initially said Biden won the election “fairly and squarely,” he began to repeat conspiracy theories about voter fraud. And taking inspiration from the former president, Elder began to sow distrust of the recall electoral system.

The radio host’s right-wing views and his repeated and deliberate distortion of the truth and statistics to support his views on crime and the police “are particularly problematic given the racial calculation after the murder of George Floyd”, Erika D Smith wrote in a column for the Los Angeles Times.

“His policies are so opposed to what the majority of Californians believe,” Smith told The Guardian.

The famous expert’s policies and policies are “in many ways more consistent with the views of national Republicans” than Republicans in California, said Corrin Rankin, vice president of the California GOP Central Valley. The state party decided not to support any of Newsom’s opponents and Rankin said she herself remained neutral.

But, she noted, many of Elder’s views – including his opposition to a minimum wage – are less aligned with the state’s more moderate Republican base. “I was surprised to learn that Elder announced he was running for governor,” she said, especially since he had in the past insisted that he was not running for governor. had no interest in showing up. “I think everyone was surprised.”

And yet, said Dan Schnur, a professor of politics at three California universities who has advised Republican candidates including John McCain, Elder’s candidacy makes sense in the post-Donald Trump era – his fame and personality in line with conventions call for some type of curator.

“Especially among the types of conservative voters who are fueling the recall, he’s a very familiar face and voice,” he said. “He’s someone they know and trust.”

While 50% of voters choose to recall the governor, “Elder is very well positioned to be the next governor of the state,” Schnur said, although Newsom is still “the frontrunner to survive this election.” The radio host raised $ 4.5 million in campaign funds – more than other Republican challengers – but only a tenth of Newsom’s $ 45 million.

Elder’s campaign did not respond to the Guardian’s request for an interview.

“Even more extreme than Trump”

Newsom, who throughout the year tried to characterize the recall election as a right-wing effort, found an easy foil in Elder. “Some say he is the most Trump of the candidates,” Newsom told supporters at a campaign event last week. “I’m saying he’s even more extreme than Trump in a lot of ways.”

While victory remains unlikely for Elder, the momentum Elder gained has worried many Democratic voters and lawmakers.

“You have someone here who has absolutely no idea how government works,” said Sydney Kamlager, California State Senator and vice-chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, “someone who doesn’t care about people’s due process, their reproductive rights, their civil rights.

California State Senator Sydney Kamlager: If Elder becomes governor, it will be
California State Senator Sydney Kamlager: If Elder becomes governor, it will be “a failure of epic proportions.” Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli / AP

“The way Larry Elder lived his life is sketchy to say the least,” Kamlager said. “If he gets the governorship, it would be a failure of epic proportions.”

California’s qualified Democratic majority in the legislature could block or reverse many actions taken by a former governor. But as California responds to the pandemic, a deep economic crisis, raging wildfires and drought, the idea that an “unprepared and untested” Elder could lead the U.S. state. more populated “is inadmissible,” she said.

“I’m really against and deeply offended by anyone who thinks the governorship is the next iteration of a reality show,” she added.

In a state that positions itself as a foil to Donald Trump’s vision of America, to see a right-wing Trumpian candidate ascend to the head of one of the country’s most progressive states would amount to “a complete abandonment of what made California California, ”Taylor said. .

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