Larry Elder. Campaign photo
The Sage from South Central. Even more extreme than Trump. The recall candidate to beat.
Larry Eldergoes by a lot of labels these days. If hes tough to pin down, thats because hes such an unlikely politician: A Black man who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, went to an Ivy League college and became a conservative provocateur.
In a state dominated by Democrats for 15 years, hed make an even more unlikely governor. As millions of Californains suss out what theyre supposed to think about him as they vote in theSept. 14 recall election, Elder sat down with CalMatters reporters and editors for an hour-long interview.
This conversation took place beforePolitico reported on allegations from Elders ex-fiancee that he brandished a gun at her while high on marijuana.Elder denied that he waved a weapon, but did not respond to other allegations: I am not going to dignify this with a response its beneath me.
CalMatters has invited Gov. Gavin Newsom and his major challengers to sit down and chat. Here are five highlights from the discussion with Elder:
Elder is especially clear on this point: He thinks hes gotten a raw deal from the left-wing media since he announced his campaign last month.
I dont have a tail, I dont have horns, he said, before noting that he also doesnt club baby seals and eat their heads. While his views onlabor policy,gender equalityandracehave been characterized by the Newsom camp and even somefellow Republicansas extreme, Elder says theyre rooted in common sense and Economics 101.
In the latest in a string of stories unearthing past controversial comments, bothCNNand theSan Francisco Chroniclepublished articles documenting what he has said about women.
He also mentioned that hes written books and made documentaries. Despite their commercial success, he claims, theyve been skimmed over by the arbiters of merit and taste newspaper book reviewers and the Oscars.
Its just surprising that Ive been shut out like this, he said. Im from the hood. I ought to be a success story.
Not that depicting himself as a media target and picking fights with fault-finding reporters doesnt have its political upside. Just ask Donald Trump. For Elders supporters and many recall voters, the disapproval of the chattering classes may serve as its own endorsement.
Thats the term Elder uses to describe his policy platform. Its a consistent line and one that hes been repeating for as long as hes been a public figure.
The biggest challenge in California in general is the intrusiveness of government, he said. I believe that a government that governs less governs best.
Hence his views on the minimum wage (there shouldnt be one), pregnancy discrimination prohibitions in the workplace (leave it to the market), public welfare programs (it encourages women to marry the government), public schools (he prefers school vouchers), state-funded health insurance programs (you need to have competition) and recreational drugs (he supports legalization).
Longtime conservative talk radio listeners and Fox News aficionados will know Elder by his more than 20 years of public opinionating. But for many California voters, he remains relatively unknown.
Thats in part Elders doing. Hes skipped three campaign debates so far,a strategy thats frustrated some GOP insiders. Elder insists its because hes not running against the Republican rivals, but against Newsom.
But debating also runs the risk of making a gaffe or coming under sustained attack a risk that Elder apparently doesnt believe he needs to make.
I have a substantial lead over my Republican rivals, thats one of the reasons why they want to debate me, he said. If I were sitting at 2% in the polls, Id want to debate me as well.
Elders years in the media world have given him a knack for talking politics in a way to draw an audience, but also sometimes to inflame.
So, yes, he opposes the Californiasrecent expansion of Medi-Cal, the public health insurance program for low-income people, to undocumented immigrants. And no, hes not going to use the term undocumented immigrant.
Likewise, climate change activists and conservationists are environmental extremists, the reformist district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco are soft on crime and safety net programs pushed by Democrats represent an attack on the nuclear family.
One of a governors most powerful policy levers is his ability to appoint to the judicial bench, to vacated constitutional offices and to the states many regulatory commissions.
While Elder doesnt have a short list of names for any of those possible appointments, he takes inspiration from Washington, DC. When selecting a judge or justice, he would model his selection on self-described originalists like Clarence Thomas and the late-Antonin Scalia.
And for the state Board of Education? Somebody who has the same philosophy as the former Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, he said.
But there was one former DC bigwig Elder was not inclined to talk about: Stephen Miller, the former Trump advisor, whoseearly start as a right-wing provocateurbegan on Elders show.
Why would you bring up Stephen Miller? Elder asked, repeatedly. Im just wondering what the agenda here is. Whats the point? Am I somehow what a Nazi? A fascist?
CalMattersis a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how Californias Capitol works and why itmatters.
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