Elder will appear on recall election ballot; Faulconer can’t use ‘retired San Diego mayor’ title

Republican recall election candidates Kevin Faulconer and Larry Elder
Judges ruled Wednesday that Kevin Faulconer, left, cannot use “retired San Diego mayor” as his title on the recall election ballot, and that Larry Elder, right, will appear on the ballot.
(Los Angeles Times; Associated Press)

Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder will appear on the recall election ballot, while Kevin Faulconer will not be described as a “former San Diego mayor” on official election paperwork, two California Superior Court judges ruled Wednesday.

The Elder ruling and other updates brought to 46 the number of candidates who are challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom on the ballot, the secretary of state’s office announced late Wednesday.

Elder, who announced last week he was running, submitted his nomination paperwork and five years of tax returns on Friday, the candidate filing deadline for the Sept. 14 election.

But when the secretary of state’s office released a list of candidates who had met the requirements to qualify for the ballot Saturday, Elder was not among them. The office later told his campaign that his tax returns were incomplete or improperly submitted.


Filing tax returns is a new requirement of a law signed by Newsom in 2019. Elder sued the secretary of state, arguing that the rule should not apply to the recall election because it specifically states that releasing tax returns is a prerequisite for appearing on a primary ballot. He also asserted that if the law did apply, his filings met the requirements.

Judge Laurie M. Earl agreed with both arguments.

“I don’t find Mr. Elder was required to file tax returns at all,” Earl said.

Elder, a Republican, celebrated the ruling as an example of what he would do as governor.

“We fought the shenanigans of Sacramento’s politicians, and we won,” he said. “If elected governor, I will fight every single day for this state.”

At his court hearing, Faulconer argued that his ballot designation should be “retired San Diego Mayor” since he led the city from 2014 until December, when he was termed out. The secretary of state’s office said that regulations governing ballot designations did not allow this title because Faulconer is now working as a consultant and a guest lecturer at Pepperdine University, and that Faulconer should be branded a “businessman/educator.”

The state Democratic Party also weighed in, saying that the word “retired” was misleading because Faulconer is working.

Judge Shellyanne Chang agreed with those arguments, allowing Secretary of State Shirley Weber to keep the title off the ballot.

A spokesman for Faulconer’s campaign said the ruling demonstrated that Democrats feared the Republican’s candidacy.


“The California Democrat Party put their fist on the scales of justice and injected partisanship into this proceeding. Voters have a right to transparent and accurate information about Mayor Faulconer’s record,” said spokesman John Burke, “and this decision defies common sense.”

Kevin Paffrath, a personal finance influencer who has more than 1.6 million followers on YouTube, lost his bid to have his trademarked nickname “Meet Kevin” included on the ballot. Weber’s office said trademarks are prohibited.

“If you rule in favor of the secretary of state, I believe you’re ruling against a society of influencers and new up-and-coming potential people who could serve their country,” said Paffrath, a Democrat.

Chang ruled against him, but complimented his presentation in virtual court.

“I don’t know if you have any legal training,” she said, “but for being at least a non-attorney, you did an excellent job.”

Of the 46 candidates on the certified list of candidates released by the secretary of state’s office late Wednesday, 24 are Republicans, 10 have no party preference, nine are Democrats, two belong to the Green Party and one is a Libertarian.

Candidates that did not appear on the list released Saturday by the secretary of state are Elder, Rhonda Furin, Armando “Mando” Perez-Serrato, Joe M. Symmon and Kevin Kaul.