Should California Republicans unite behind Larry Elder in the recall election?

9 August 2021

2:07 PM

9 August 2021

2:07 PM

California Republicans are not falling in line behind a single candidate in the recall against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The California Republican party voted not to endorse any of the candidates running in the state’s upcoming recall during a Saturday morning online convention. The decision comes as right-wing firebrand Larry Elder has surged in recent polling, overshadowing the establishment favorite, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer. The candidate who received the endorsement would have been given additional funding and campaign infrastructure. Instead, none of the candidates on the September 14 ballot will have the party’s backing.

Originally, party delegates were set to choose between four candidates in different voting rounds where each candidate would be eliminated until the final round. To receive the state party’s endorsement, the candidate must meet a 60 percent support threshold among the delegates. Twenty-four hours before the convention, however, party leaders began lobbying delegates to scrap the vote and issue no endorsement, GOP state officials told The Spectator.

On Saturday morning, national committee members Harmeet Dhillion and Shawn Steel brought forward a motion to table the endorsement. The pair said the party endorsement ‘may deter some voters’ from ousting Newsom. Party chair Jessia Millian Patterson concurred, and the motion passed with 671 delegates voting in favor while 77 dissented.

The move comes amid internal push for the party to unify behind one candidate — Larry Elder. Since announcing his 11th-hour candidacy, Elder has risen to the head of the GOP pack. Polls indicate he is the favorite among the Republican base to replace Newsom. Elder also won the endorsement of the Lincoln Club of Orange County and the California College Republicans. His campaign did not condemn the party’s decision.

‘We made no effort to contact delegates because we continue to regard this as a recall election, not a candidate primary,’ Elder’s campaign said in a statement to The Spectator. ‘We understood that a majority of delegates were drawn to Larry, and we are humbled by their support. Though Larry has only been in this campaign for three weeks, his appeal has been growing among independent voters and Democrats, and surely among Republicans. Larry’s campaign is not about party or partisanship, but bringing all Californians together. The recall of Gavin Newsom affects us all: it’s urgent that he be removed from office as soon as possible.’

Newsom is still favored to defeat the recall effort; however recent polls indicate turnout may decide his fate. Republicans are more energized to oust him, while Democrats and independents appear less motivated. The GOP has a rare opportunity to control the governorship of the nation’s deepest blue state. Yet, some GOP officials concluded it was not worth dividing the base. Faulconer, who is perceived as the candidate favored by party leaders, sent out an email urging delegates to vote against an endorsement.

‘The California Republican party should unite towards the sole goal of driving support for this historic recall,’ Faulconer said in an email hours before the vote. ‘Ever since the close of candidate filing, it has become clear an endorsement of one candidate over another would only distract from that goal.’

Additionally, the California Federation of College Republicans concurred with the party’s decision to abstain. ‘An endorsement towards a particular candidate would shift momentum away from the priority of removing Gavin Newsom from office,’ chairman Michael Curry told The Spectator on behalf of his organization. ‘While many of us have our own personal preferences in candidates, we stand united in the belief that Gavin Newsom needs to be recalled.’

Faulconer’s campaign has lobbied the party for months to make an official endorsement but changed pace after Elder’s late surge now indicates Faulconer may not have enough grassroots support. While Republicans are refusing to unify by one candidate, Newsom has made Elder the face of the GOP recall effort. His campaign flagged Elder’s vow to eliminate the minimum wage while framing him as a vaccine skeptic.

The recall ballot will first ask whether voters want to recall Newsom and then who should replace him. If a majority votes to remove Newsom, then the candidate who receives the most votes on the second part of the ballot becomes the governor of the nation’s largest state. The last time a recall ballot put a Republican in the California governor’s office was in 2004 with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won 48 percent of the vote.

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