Gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder said he would declare a state of emergency on homelessness, increase California’s water supply and promote school choice at a San Diego Republican event Monday night.
Elder, a conservative radio host and Republican who is among the leading candidates to replace Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom in the upcoming recall election, was the headline speaker at a meeting of the Republican Party of San Diego County. An estimated 1,000 people attended the event, the organization said, which was held at the Town and Country in Mission Valley.
In a less than 20-minute speech, Elder spoke about how he was influenced by his father, who was a Marine but had to work jobs cleaning toilets to raise his family and went to night school to earn a high school equivalency diploma.
He said his father taught him the importance of hard work and that you can’t just complain about something bad happening to you; you need to do something in an effort to change it, he said.
“My father said hard work wins,” he said. “You cannot control the outcome but you are 100 percent in control of the effort.”
Elder said he would issue an emergency declaration on homelessness. He suggested building low-cost housing and giving treatment for issues such as substance abuse.
“Come on, this country’s never been more wealthy, we can’t figure this out?” he said.
He condemned the state of California’s public schools because many children are failing state standardized tests, particularly Black boys.
About 67 percent of Black students did not meet state standards for English language arts on standardized tests, according to the California Department of Education. Roughly half of all public school students who took state tests did not meet the standard for English.
“The majority of urban, Black and brown parents want choice, yet they pull that lever year after year after year for the Democratic Party that has not given them the first step towards leaving poverty which is a quality high school education,” he said.
Elder said the solution to that is giving parents more choice in education and having public school dollars follow children to the schools they choose, whether it be a district school, charter school or private school.
Elder said he’d also prioritize increasing California’s water supply, saying that he has visited farmers in Kern County who are starving because they’re not getting enough water.
Elder said he doesn’t believe systemic racism exists, and racism instead is a trait held by a small minority of individuals. He echoed Republican criticisms of critical race theory, which is the study of how racism is embedded in legal systems and society.
“Who would’ve thought just years after electing and re-electing the first Black president, we’d be talking about reparations and critical race theory? Are you kidding me?” he said.
He said Black boys are more likely to lack fathers and be victims of homicide, but he attributed those problems to a reliance on a welfare state rather than systemic racism.
“Systemic racism is not the problem and critical race theory and reparations are not the answer,” he said to a standing ovation.
For several people who attended Monday’s event, Newsom’s COVID-19 lockdown orders and mask mandates are big reasons why they’re supporting Newsom’s recall.
They said Newsom’s lockdown orders hurt small businesses, churches, and schools by forcing them to close. They believe the state was arbitrary in deciding which businesses and establishments could remain open during COVID-19 and which ones had to close.
Some said they like Elder because, like former President Donald Trump, he’s an outsider who isn’t part of the political establishment, which they believe is full of cronyism.
El Cajon resident Sara Ackerman said she likes that Elder is not an elitist and that he came from a humble background and worked hard to get where he is.
“I think he understands the middle class better than our current governor,” Ackerman said.
California voters who are likely to vote in the recall election are closely split on whether to recall Newsom, a recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found.
Although California overall has a significant Democrat majority, that’s not expected to be an advantage for Newsom in the recall election because turnout is expected to be much higher for Republicans than for Democrats.
Elder is leading among the candidates who are running to replace Newsom, the poll found, largely because he has a strong following among Republicans who are likely to vote in the election.
When asked who they would choose to replace Newsom, the largest portion of likely voters — 40 percent — said they don’t know yet.
About 18 percent of likely voters said they would choose Elder, while 10 percent said they would choose former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, and 10 percent said they would pick businessman John Cox.
They are competing with a slew of other recall candidates including state Assemblymember Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), retired Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, and finance YouTuber Kevin Paffrath.
Voters will be asked two questions on the recall election ballot. The first will ask voters whether Newsom should be recalled. The second will ask who should become governor if Newsom is recalled.
If a majority of voters choose to recall Newsom, the recall candidate who received the most votes in the second question will become governor, regardless of whether they received a majority of votes.
The recall election will take place on Sept. 14.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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