The Mercury News
Elder talks about Newsom, COVID and Trump
L.A.-based radio host is leading among possible replacement candidates
Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder quickly has risen in the polls to become the leading contender to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom this fall if the sitting governor loses the Sept. 14 recall election.
The Los Angeles native spoke with this news organization about what he’d do as governor, his thoughts on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and more. Here are nine things to know about the controversial, self-identified Sage from South Central.
1. He says he’d tackle homelessness on his first day in office.
Elder said one of the first things he’d do is declare a statewide emergency on homelessness and suspend the California Environmental Quality Act, which is meant to offer environmental protections and is often cited as a reason for opposing new construction, so that “developers and contractors can be unleashed” and put up hundreds of thousands of new housing units.
Ample housing, combined with treatment for homeless people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse problems, he said, would let the state forcibly move people inside.
“People would be forced to get off the street,” he said.
2. Elder would get rid of pandemic mandates. Elder, who is vaccinated himself, said he would repeal mandates requiring state workers to get the coronavirus vaccine or face regular testing. He’s not a fan of mask mandates, either. Earlier in the pandemic, he said, such mandates were put in place to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed. “We’re not even close to overstressing them right now,” he said. If people don’t want to get the vaccine, he argued, “it seems to me that’s their right.” And if the state is aiming for ridding itself of the virus entirely before ditching masks and other restrictions, he said, residents will be in pandemic mode “forever.”
Elder said children, including those under 12 who are too young to receive the vaccine, are unlikely to get very sick from the disease and should have returned to in-person learning last year. He blamed teachers unions for keeping distance learning in place and preventing parents from sending their kids back to school.
The highly transmissible delta variant has been driving up infections in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, although people who have been jabbed are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from the disease. Public health experts have said boosting vaccination rates and masks are essential to stop the spread of the virus.
3. He has switched his tune on firing bad teachers.
In the past, Elder suggested he would fire thousands of teachers in California. But this week, he said that “it’s almost
impossible to fire an incompetent teacher,” suggesting he would focus on bringing in “more competition” in the form of charter and private schools to improve education instead.
4. Elder thinks the minimum wage should be zero.
Elder said California’s minimum wage law, which will mandate a $15 minimum for businesses with 26 or more employees starting in January, “discriminates against unskilled people.” People willing to work for $12 should have the right to work that out with an employer, he said. “Why is it a third party’s business?” he asked, adding that he thinks those who lean politically left are “so arrogant” for thinking it is their job to regulate the issue.
5. He doesn’t believe in “climate change alarmism.”
Elder said he believes climate change is occurring and that humans are a factor, but the extent to which people are to blame “is debatable.” He asked why former President Barack Obama bought a $12 million home near the ocean on Martha’s Vineyard if there is so much concern about rising oceans. Elder said there are ways of dealing with climate change “without force-feeding renewable energy schemes down the throats of taxpayers.” Asked about wildfires, which science says are being fueled by climate change, he said he believes a larger problem is people building homes in wildfireprone areas and insurers being prevented from dramatically raising premiums. He said forests need to be managed better, with more removal of dry vegetation, and blamed Newsom for misleading voters about the amount of fire prevention work taking place.
6. He grew up in a politically divided house.
Elder grew up with a Republican father and a Democrat for a mother. His father, he said, would tell him that Democrats always want to give something for nothing … and almost always get nothing for something in return. “That’s generally how I feel about Democrats,” he said, suggesting the party is too focused on taxing and regulating people without trusting them to make decisions. But, he said, as governor of a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a roughly 2-to-1 margin, he is under “no illusion” that he will be able to turn the state “into some libertarian utopia.”
7. He doesn’t believe in the wage gap and doesn’t support welfare spending.
Reputable studies repeatedly have shown that women are paid less than men for the same work. But Elder said the gap is a “false lie,” suggesting that if it were true, “any self-respecting employer” would be firing men, hiring women and pocketing the difference in labor cost.
Elder also argued that “the welfare state has destabilized families,” suggesting that government policies have incentivized “women to marry the government.” A lack of family stability, said Elder, a Black man, is a “far bigger problem than systemic racism.”
8. He voted for Donald Trump.
Elder seemed surprised when asked whom he supported for president in 2020, saying he always votes Republican and hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976, a vote he now regrets. Elder does believe Trump lost the election, which is in contrast to a Reuters/Ipsos poll in May that found a majority of Republicans falsely believe Trump won.
Elder suggested that it was unfair Trump was blamed for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and Hillary Clinton was not blamed for the arrests and vandalism that took place when Trump was inaugurated in 2017. In 2017, almost none of the arrests resulted in convictions, and the D.C. government agreed to a $1.6 million settlement over allegations of unlawful detainment. Clinton did not encourage her supporters to fight, but Trump told his backers that if they didn’t “fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
“This is a double standard,” Elder argued.
9. He thinks Roe v. Wade should go.
Elder thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned and that the issue of whether a woman has the right to an abortion should go back to the states to decide. “It’s pitted Americans against Americans and, in my opinion, unnecessarily,” he said, adding that he doesn’t understand why anyone in California is worried because it’s a left-leaning state with an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature that is unlikely to pass new limitations.