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Could conservative radio host Larry Elder actually be the next governor of California?

Emily DeRuy, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

He has proposed abolishing the IRS, welfare and the minimum wage, opposes gun restrictions and mask mandates and doesn’t believe policing has a systemic race problem. He boasts nearly a million Twitter followers and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the Democrats who dominate deep blue California are cramming to learn everything they can about Larry Elder and asking: Could this guy actually be California’s next governor?

The conservative radio host was a last-minute addition to the list of gubernatorial wannabes trying to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. But since he announced his candidacy just weeks ago, Elder has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and skyrocketed to the top of polls.

Among voters most likely to participate in the election, 34% said they were considering supporting Elder, according to a poll this week from the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies — placing him well ahead of more traditional candidates like former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox.

For longtime political wonks like Jaime Regalado, a professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, the fact that Elder appears to be doing so well “is no surprise at all.”

But could a Gov. Larry Elder actually be in charge of the world’s fifth largest economy on the planet in less than eight weeks?


First, here’s a primer for Democrats who need an introduction to the self-dubbed Sage from South Central, whose followers are known as Elder-ados and Elder-berries.

The 69-year-old Republican was born and raised in Los Angeles. A University of Michigan-educated lawyer, Elder ran a legal executive search firm before jumping into the world of conservative media. He’s published books, written newspaper columns, appeared on television, and hosts a nationally syndicated radio show popular with conservatives, where he talks about everything from race relations to, of course, Newsom.

“Larry Elder’s been around a long time, he’s had a soapbox for a long time, and he’s not a politician,” Regalado said. “For a lot of people, that’s a good thing.”

In other words, in a field of dozens that does not include an internationally recognized name like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the winner of the last successful recall in 2003, Elder’s “got the highest name ID,” said GOP political consultant Rob Stutzman.


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