Conservative talk radio giant Larry Elder recently announced his candidacy for Governor of California to replace Gavin Newsom in the Recall Election on September 14.
Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Elder has all the makings of a strong candidate. As a graduate of Brown University and Michigan Law school, no one can dispute his intellectual prowess, and indeed Elder has, over the course of his career, solidified his status as a leading conservative thinker. But what is perhaps most appealing to long-suffering California Republicans is Elder’s reputation for dismantling Democratic arguments day in and day out on his nationally syndicated radio show.
Undoubtedly, the Democrat attack machine – which loves to leverage a candidate’s racial identity against them – will also find it particularly difficult to slander Elder, an African American who happens to be incredibly intelligent, charismatic, and conservative. In California, the “woke” capital of the world, Elder’s life defies the liberal narrative on race. Rather than play the victim role Democrats would prefer to cast him in, Elder has risen through sheer hard work and determination from a modest background to become, in addition to an accomplished radio host, a bestselling author and recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Elder has frequently told the story of his father working hard in various janitorial positions to make sure his son could enjoy opportunities he never had. He believes that is the essence of the American Dream: freedom to work hard and benefit from the fruit of your labor. As Elder himself says, “My two brothers and I were motivated by the dreams and goals of my mother and my father—who always taught us this great truth: hard work wins. You get out of life what you put into it. You cannot control the outcome, but you are 100% in control of the effort. And finally, my parents taught us that no matter how hard we worked, how good we were, how we deal with bad things that happen will define our character.”
That used to get you places in California. The “California Dream” drew many to the West Coast. But that dream is increasingly out of reach for the average Californian—and Newsom’s policies have only made it worse.
That’s why Elder has had enough. As a lifelong Californian, he loves the state, and has seen how it has been run into the ground for decades, but especially under Newsom and his COVID regime. In many ways, Elder presents a formidable challenge to Newsom. And it seems Newsom is aware of this, because after Elder announced his candidacy, there was a last-minute attempt to remove him from the ballot by California’s Secretary of State that was eventually denied by a judge. In a statement following the incident, Elder said, “We fought the shenanigans of Sacramento’s politicians and we won. If elected governor, I will fight every single day for this state. This is just the beginning.”
Elder provides a clear contrast to Newsom on a host of issues—beginning with Newsom’s COVID response. Despite some of the most draconian measures in the country, California does not have significant better case or death rates compared to states like Texas and Florida, which allowed individuals and businesses to operate with far greater freedom.
California was also one of the worst three states for small business closure, with the number of small businesses in the state decreasing by nearly half since last year. To add insult to injury, Newsom was spotted eating at fancy restaurants with lobbyists (many of whom he’s awarded with juicy no-bid contracts) while regular Californians were on lockdown. And while everyday citizens couldn’t send their kids to school, Newsom’s were enjoying in-person instruction.
Conversely, Elder believes parents should be able to send their children to school, and that the schools themselves (which are among the lowest performing in the country) need to be amply reformed, including extending school choice to every Californian.
Newsom has also continued and expanded policies that essentially allow illegal immigrants to receive the benefits of American citizenship more than many actual citizens. Elder believes California needs to stop welcoming illegal immigrants who undercut California jobs and who studies show have contributed to a rise in crime and poverty.
Newsom’s crime policies have been particularly disastrous. He stands by a “no cash bail” system that has allowed countless violent criminals to return to the streets. Conversely, Elder has unashamedly voiced his opinion that violent criminals need to be in prison, not on the streets.
Elder has also repeatedly called for a shift in regulatory policy that would help alleviate skyrocketing housing prices in California. Under Newsom’s environmental policies, the average cost of purchasing a home in California is now 150% higher than the rest of the nation.
Perhaps worst of all, Newsom has strengthened and given no-bid deals to lobbyists and cronies in the Sacramento pollical class that have only increased the vast income inequality in the state and led to scandal after scandal. Throughout his career, Elder has called out that very behavior, and has no connection with any of the existing elites. Under Newsom, the big corporations (including big tech) have only gotten more and more powerful, while millions of Californians, and thousands of small businesses, have been impoverished.
But can Elder really unseat an entrenched Democrat like Newsom? The political establishment in California would like voters to believe that because there are so many candidates running, it will be impossible to beat the current governor. And that might very well be true if Newsom were running against every other candidate individually – but he isn’t. Every voter will have to respond to two questions on the ballot. First, should the governor be recalled? Second, who should replace him? If more than 50% answer yes to the first question, then whoever gets the most votes on the second question wins, even if that person gets far short of a majority. However, if fewer than 50% answer yes to the first question, the second question is moot, and Newsom remains in office.
This means it is actually easier for Newsom to lose than most people realize. Recent polls show that Californians are now roughly split on whether he should be recalled. Just a few months ago, he was ahead in those same polls by almost 20 points.
If that momentum continues, someone other than Gavin Newsom has a real shot of becoming the next Governor of California. And it might just be Larry Elder.
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