GOP recall election candidate Larry Elder’s controversies, explained

Larry Elder speaks to supporters
Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters July 13.
(Associated Press )

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 24. I’m Justin Ray.

Radio talk show host Larry Elder has emerged as the leading GOP candidate seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom if he is recalled. Elder, who calls himself “the Sage from South Central,” is also a lawyer, documentary maker and writer who is well known in GOP circles and frequently appears on Fox News. But as his profile has risen, so has scrutiny of his life.

As the recall race heats up, here is a summary of moments from Elder’s past that have received attention recently.

  • The candidate’s former fiancee accused him of brandishing a gun at her. In an article published by Politico, Alexandra Datig claimed that at one point during their stormy, 18-month relationship, Elder checked to see whether his .45 pistol was loaded during a heated argument. “I, for one brief moment, believed that he intended to shoot me. I was in fear for my life,” Datig told The Times, calling it “my Phil Spector, Lana Clarkson moment,” referring to the Hollywood music producer who fatally shot his companion.

    “I have never brandished a gun at anyone,” Elder said in response to the claims. “These are salacious allegations.”

  • Elder’s derogatory remarks about women have been targeted by his opponents in the race. In a 2000 column for Capitalism magazine, Elder said Democrats had an advantage over Republicans because they were supported by women, and “women know less than men about political issues, economics and current events.”

    Elder didn’t discuss the statement directly, but on Twitter he claimed that “Calif. Dems are desperate & slandering me, distorting what I wrote in a column 21 yrs ago.” He added a link to the column, saying: “Here’s what I wrote, decide for yourself.”

  • Elder has been criticized for a decades-old clip recorded at a comedy club, in which he repeatedly uses the N-word, in an apparent impression of O.J. Simpson defense attorney F. Lee Bailey. KBLA morning host Dominique DiPrima, who first re-aired the KABC clip, said it’s “like a Black man doing blackface.”

    In a statement emailed to The Times, Elder’s campaign said, “In knee-jerk rhetoric that is far too common today, [DiPrima] resorts to accusing Elder of promoting hate simply because his views have long been contrary to her own.”

  • During an interview with McClatchy’s California-based editorial boards, Elder said that “the ideal minimum wage is $0.” The remark drew criticism during a recent recall election debate.

Those are the main issues drawing attention, but Elder has expressed views about abortion, climate change and COVID-19 that are worth reviewing. Additionally, California regulators have launched an investigation into whether he properly disclosed his income sources, which you can read about here.


The recall election is set for Sept. 14, and voters are starting to receive their ballots in the mail. I found this voter guide to be helpful. It explains what your vote will mean and what various political parties are saying.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

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A man works out
A resident at the Oceanaire, a luxury apartment complex in Long Beach.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)


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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida eloped to Southern California, marrying Ginger Luckey in a small ceremony on Catalina Island. Gaetz, 39, announced the Saturday wedding on his personal Twitter page. He exclaimed, “I love my wife!” alongside a photo of the couple. Vanity Fair reports that a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul performed the ceremony, which was attended by about 40 people. Gaetz is under investigation in a sex trafficking probe that led to a guilty plea by Joel Greenberg, a close friend and former Florida county tax collector. Gaetz denies wrongdoing. WFLA


At least 10 people have died in Sacramento County jails since the pandemic began, but the sheriff notified the public about only one. The omissions bypass a longstanding practice around the country of informing the public when someone dies in law enforcement custody. “There’s too great a likelihood that something can be termed a ‘natural death,’ but it is actually preventable,” said Michele Deitch, an expert on jails and prisons who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law. “Any death in a jail should be a matter that raises concerns.” Sacramento Bee

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Diners are bailing on Bay Area restaurant reservations amid Delta variant concerns. Concerns over Delta seem to be changing diner behavior, Bay Area restaurant owners told the San Francisco Chronicle. Restaurants have seen a significant drop in business and a rise in canceled reservations. OpenTable data show that restaurant dining in San Francisco is down 16% from July, with business as low as 66% below 2019 levels. That makes San Francisco one of the hardest-hit dining cities in the country, according to the platform. San Francisco Chronicle

A death at SeaWorld. A 6-year-old female killer whale, Amaya, died unexpectedly at SeaWorld San Diego, the park announced. The orca began showing signs of illness, prompting specialists to administer treatment. But her condition quickly worsened, and she died last week. SeaWorld says it won’t know the cause of death until it conducts a medical examination, which could take weeks. San Diego Union-Tribune


California’s job market was surging before the Delta variant took hold. Now employers are scared for their businesses — and for their workers. While the state has added a remarkable 100,000 jobs every month for six months, it has recovered just 58% of the 2.7 million lost due to COVID-19. “People came out of hibernation,” said one economist. “But the Delta virus remains a wildcard. If another wave of the pandemic continues, economic growth will suffer.” Los Angeles Times

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Today’s California memory is from Elaine Masters:

In the 1970s, I left home in Upland for college but once a month took the red-eye, $10 mail flight from San Francisco to the Ontario airport to see my boyfriend. I’d return before classes on Monday and remember a spring takeoff as we banked above the Cucamonga vineyards. I’d thought of them as dry and desolate places. Seeing carpets of green below, I realized how fertile and potent those acres were. The revelation seeded my heart with longing and brought me back to Southern California decades later.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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