Republican candidate Larry Elder visited Bakersfield, where he hopes his message of reversing many of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policies will help propel him into office.
In town Wednesday to fundraise and meet local Republican representatives, he discussed his objectives with The Californian. He believes his stances on housing, water and oil are particularly well-suited for Kern County, and he hopes Democratic-leaning residents are fed up enough with the current governor to vote for him in September.
“I think that this is a perfect storm. This is not an anti-Democrat thing. My mom was a Democrat, my late brother and my best friend is a Democrat,” he said in a phone interview. “This is about Gavin Newsom and the arrogant way that he governed this state during the pandemic.”
The conservative talk show host and author was prompted to run for governor in response to the government restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, he said he would not have locked down the state or imposed a mask mandate.
“I would have relied on the common sense of Californians,” he said. “I believe that the vaccines work. I would have left it up to the individuals.”
Initially, Newsom issued a stay-at-home order to prevent a surge in patients at hospitals. Californians were told they needed to refrain from in-person contact to “flatten the curve.” The restrictions then lasted into 2021 as COVID-19 continued to spread and scientists learned more about the disease.
The pandemic played a major role in opening Newsom up to the threat of a recall. Elder brought up Newsom’s infamous dinner party at Napa Valley’s The French Laundry during the beginning of the winter surge as an indication of Newsom’s supposed hypocritical leadership. At anti-lockdown demonstrations last year, signature collectors for the recall were a common sight.
But for Cathy Abernathy, head of the Kern County Republican Party, the recall is about more than just the backlash to the pandemic. She characterized recent state legislation as far left and at odds with homeowners and working class people.
“Everything in this state right now is designed toward how little effort you as an individual need to make, and how the government and the other taxpayers will help pay for it,” she said, “and I think that is making people mad.”
Elder’s political horizons lay beyond pandemic criticism. He hopes to reverse much of Newsom’s agenda, notably in housing and oil.
To reduce the high cost of living in the state, he said he would seek to suspend the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which forces developers to undertake comprehensive environmental studies before construction.
Additionally, Elder said he would reverse the hostile attitude California has toward oil along with pushing for nuclear power plants as a way for the state to reach its energy goals.
“You can’t just pick up a magic wand and say by 2030 we are going to be carbon neutral,” he said. “That’s one of the many reasons why for the first time we’re going to have a net migration out of California.”
A total of 46 candidates qualified for the recall election, aiming to take advantage of what they see as a vulnerable moment for Newsom. A recent poll by Emerson College/Nexstar shows Californians almost evenly split on the recall issue. A total of 46 percent responded in favor of recalling the governor with 48 percent against. Of those who favor the recall, Elder is the leading candidate, with 23 percent of respondents indicating he was their leading choice.
He added that he would push for more education choice and desalination plants to address drought.
“People in California want to change,” Elder said. “And I’m going to be that change agent.”
The election is scheduled for Sept. 14. Mail-in ballots will soon be sent to registered voters.
“People are ready for sending a message,” Abernathy said. “I don’t know if they have an idea for who should correct it, but I think they want to send a message.”