Leading Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder picked up a major endorsement from the former Democratic majority leader of the California state Senate Wednesday in the recall election for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
Gloria Romero, who served as the Democratic majority leader in the state Senate from 2001 until 2008 before stepping down to serve on the Education Committee, endorsed Elder for governor in a video published Wednesday. An education reform activist, Romero declared her support for Elder's position on school choice.
"Our public schools need big change. I'm Gloria Romero; I was the majority leader of Democrats in the state Senate. I believe in charter schools and school choice. So does Larry Elder – but not Gavin Newsom. He shut our public schools while he sent his kids to private schools," she says in a video.
"Yes: I'm a Democrat. But the recall of Newsom is not about political party. It's about Newsom. Larry Elder for governor," she adds.
Elder, a libertarian-minded talk radio host, currently leads the pack of Republicans vying to challenge Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. While Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1 in California, Elder is believed to have a strong chance of becoming governor under the rules of the recall election, should voters decide they've had enough of the current governor.
Newsom won the largest share of the vote of any Democrat in state history when he was elected governor in 2018. But his heavily criticized handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his scandalous hypocrisy in ordering Californians to observe the coronavirus restrictions while flouting those restrictions at a private birthday party in a French restaurant, gave his opponents enough support to trigger a recall election.
The recall ballot will ask two questions. First, should the governor be recalled? And if so, who should be governor? If a simple majority of voters answer "yes" to the first question, then the candidate with the most votes on the second question becomes governor. These rules enable any candidate with a plurality of votes to win the election, which gives Elder a real chance of becoming governor should Democrats split the vote among the more than 40 candidates on the ballot while Republicans stay united behind him.
Most California voters are not conservative. They don't share Elder's positions on the issues. But recent polls have shown that voters are split on whether Newsom should remain governor, with 47% saying he should be recalled and 50% saying he should stay. Other surveys have suggested that Republicans are more motivated to vote in the recall election than Democratic voters, who if they stay home could cause Newsom to lose the first ballot question and open the door for Elder to becoming governor.
With Democrats nervous and Republican rivals envious of his frontrunner status, opposition research is flying to take down Elder's candidacy before the election.
The Sacramento Bee and Republican candidates Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, and Caitlyn Jenner, a reality TV star and former Olympic athlete, have each called on Elder to drop out of the race after his ex-fiancee claimed that he once waved a gun at her while high on marijuana in 2015, prompting her to break off their engagement.
Politico first reported the account of Elder's former fiancee, Alexandra Datig, 51, who said the incident occurred during an argument.
The alleged gun incident occurred in the midst of a heated conversation as their relationship was unraveling, according to Datig. "He was in the bedroom, and I was standing by the door," she said. "We talked to each other.'' He became silent, she said, and then slowly "walked over to the nightstand, opened the door, took out the gun,'' a .45 pistol.
"And he checked if it was loaded — while I was talking,'' she said. "He wanted to make sure I saw that he had it."
"It was an act of silent scorn — and anger,'' she said.
Elder denied the accusations, calling them "salacious" in a tweet thread condemning "this type of politics of personal destruction."
"I am not going to dignify this with a response — it's beneath me," he added.
The media attention on Elder, as well as the Newsom campaign's pivot to attack him as "to the right of Donald Trump," could very well backfire by signaling to Republican voters that Elder is the candidate Democrats fear most and therefore the man to rally behind.
The recall election will be held on Sept. 14. California has already sent a mail-in ballot to every active registered voter in the state. Returned ballots must be postmarked by Sept. 14 and received by Sept. 21 to be counted.