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Gov. Newsom says recall candidate Larry Elder will roll back California laws

Larry Elder, left, speaks  in Norwalk. Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, listens at a news conference in Oakland.
Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder, left, speaks to supporters in Norwalk. Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, listens at a news conference in Oakland.
(Associated Press)

Gov. Gavin Newsom attacked the Republican topping the field of candidates trying to replace him in the September recall election, calling conservative talk show host Larry Elder a climate change denier who would restrict abortion rights and end the minimum wage if elected.

Newsom’s broadside against his opponent Thursday comes just a week after a poll showed that likely California voters are almost evenly split over ousting the governor in the Sept. 14 recall election, and that Elder leads the pack among the candidates in the race.

For months Newsom has criticized the recall effort as the handiwork of far-right supporters of former President Trump and a Republican Party intent on undermining his election in 2018, shying away from personal attacks on the candidates hoping to take his place in Sacramento.

But at a Friday news conference in San Bernardino on school reopenings, and during a Zoom call with campaign volunteers the night before, Newsom went after Elder, though not by name, referring to him only as the front-runner among the replacement candidates.

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The governor called Elder a major Trump supporter — a rallying cry in a state won overwhelmingly by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Newsom also accused Elder of being a threat to abortion rights established under the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 and said he was a vocal advocate for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil extraction method that Newsom supports abolishing.

“The leading candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, believes we need more offshore oil drilling, more fracking, does not believe a woman has the right to choose [and] actually came out against Roe v. Wade, does not believe in a minimum wage,” Newsom said Thursday night.

On Friday, Newsom again tried his best to yoke Elder to Trump by saying the Republican has been endorsed by former Trump advisor Rudolph W. Giuliani and subscribes to the former president’s baseless assertion that the election was stolen.

Elder has shaken up the recall campaign since joining the field, both in polling and in enthusiasm among GOP donors. The self-described “Sage from South Central” said conservatives such as fellow radio host Dennis Prager persuaded him to run because of his stances on the challenges facing California and because of the built-in support base of Elder’s longtime radio audience.

A spokeswoman for the Elder campaign accused Newsom of “lashing out” at the Republican candidate because he realizes that his political career is on the line.

“Gavin Newsom is running scared. He cannot defend his horrendous record on crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living, water shortages, uncontrollable wildfires, and tyrannical COVID lockdowns,” spokeswoman Ying Ma said in an email. “Larry believes in liberty, personal responsibility, private enterprise, and the ingenuity of the people of California, not Newsom’s repressive edicts or the cronyism of his allies.”

Elder has raised more than $1.2 million since entering the race in mid-July, eclipsing other top GOP candidates including reality television star and retired Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, former Northern California Rep. Doug Ose and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faluconer, another Republican, bested Elder by raising $3.4 million in his campaign accounts but did so over several months.

On Thursday, Newsom criticized Elder for recent comments to the Sacramento Bee and San Jose Mercury News in which he said the ideal minimum wage in California would be $0.

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“I’m not making that up — zero. I mean, he’s not even debating the merits or demerits of $15” an hour, Newsom told supporters.

Newsom also warned that, if he is recalled, any Republican who takes his place would have the power to reshape the state court system and would have political allies such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).

Californians voting in the Sept. 14 election will receive a ballot with two questions: Should Newsom be recalled from office, and if he is ousted, which replacement candidate should take his place?

If Newsom is recalled, the candidate on the ballot who receives the most votes wins — no matter how many votes he or she receives. The crowded field of candidates is expected to splinter the electorate, which means a Republican who reels in just a small fraction of the vote could become California’s 41st governor. No Republican has won a statewide election in California since 2006.

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A recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll cosponsored by The Times found that Californians who say they expect to vote in the recall election are almost evenly divided over whether to remove Newsom from office. Though Democratic voters far outnumber Republicans in California, the GOP’s enthusiasm over the recall promises to inflate the potency of the anti-Newsom vote in September, according to Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.

Newsom said as much on Thursday’s Zoom call to volunteers.

“At the end of the day, this is all about turnout,” Newsom said. “They may turn out in record numbers. But there are more of us, meaning more that believe like us — including many Republicans that just reject Trump and Trumpism.”

Newsom told the volunteers not to underestimate the damage a Republican governor could do in California, saying he didn’t want to see the state follow policies similar to those of Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis.

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“They would turn back all the progress this state has made,” Newsom said. “We’ve had better health outcomes than Florida and Texas and better economic outcomes than Florida and Texas. They will take us off a COVID cliff. That’s what’s on the ballot Sept. 14.”

DeSantis’ national profile has risen in large part because of his support for Trump and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which bucked restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The Florida governor has prohibited mask mandates in schools, a ban that remains in place despite a major surge in cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.


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