Larry Elder, the long-time talk radio host whose booming voice has long-dominated Los Angeles drive-time radio, is an unlikely candidate for Governor, to say the least.
But spending hours on end chatting about the troubles of the Golden State has left him fairly well-equipped to breakdown the big issues.
Now, his eleventh-hour entrance, and a splashy lawsuit to guarantee his placement on the ballot, have propelled him into the California Recall race has propelled him to the top of the heap in recent public polling.
Wednesday, as fellow candidates seeking to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom gathered in Yorba Linda for the first debate of the recall season, Elder spoke with The San Joaquin Valley Sun as he ventured to an event in Bakersfield.
ALEX TAVLIAN, THE SUN: Larry, thank you so much for taking time to talk, I know things have been a little crazy.
LARRY ELDER: It’s been totally unexpected, I haven’t run for office since fifth-grade class president so this is a new thing.
I have to ask, how did that turn out?
Well, I carried three out of four rows, I beat William Lloyd, they’re still cleaning up the blood. I don’t remember what the issues were – what kind of issues do you even have when you’re the fifth grade?
Longer recess, yeah. Better food during lunch hour.
SUN: Polling on the recall question is narrowing, as recent polls show it within the margin of error. You’re currently sitting at the top of the heap for replacement candidates in those polls and you could be sitting in the Horseshoe as Governor.
Typically, we evaluate Governors for their first 100 days, but given the proximity of the 2022 elections, what can we expect in your first 30?
William Buckley once ran for Mayor of New York and didn’t expect to win. Someone asked him what was the first thing he’d do when he won. He said “Demand a recount.”
My top priorities are crime, homelessness, and the outrageous cost of living. I would certainly repeal any mandates on masks and on vaccines that are still in place that have been put in place by Gavin Newsom – so many still remain.
I would declare a state of emergency on homelessness. My opinion: one of the many reasons we have the problem with homelessness is that we have a war on contractors who want to build low-cost housing.
There’s something called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that’s been around for decades and it allows virtually anyone to stop any project for almost any reasons.
It’s one of the reasons why California home prices are 150 percent higher than the national average. It’s why the average home in California costs than 50 percent it otherwise would, but for these environmental regulations, according to Lee Ohanian, the economist at UCLA who does a lot of work on real estate.
Now, of course, that’s just part of the problem. What Gavin Newsom wants to do is to have a housing-first approach towards homelessness. That doesn’t do anything without addressing the underlying reason why people are on the streets in the first place.
Furthermore, the homes that are done by government – or at least by government supervision – cost substantially more than they would if the private sector just did them. So the first thing I would do is declare a statewide emergency on homelessness and suspend CEQA.
CEQA has suspended for the [Sacramento] Kings stadium up for a billionaire. Why they can’t suspend it for the hundreds of thousands of homes on the board, I’m told, by developers is beyond me.
Then I would get churches involved and try to get people involved, give people the kind of spiritual awakening that they need and the kind of mental counseling that they need and the kind of drug counseling that they need, because a substantial number of them are mentally ill and are abusing substances.
I also recognize a substantial percentage of them, I don’t know how many – nobody really knows – are truly schizophrenic and that means a danger to themselves or to others.
Not many months ago, Gavin Newsom touring a part of Oakland was assaulted by a mentally ill homeless person. So, a lot of people are mentally ill, they need to be treated. A lot of people have substance abuse, they need to be treated. But we have to enforce the law, and the law is that you cannot pitch a tent on public property like that. It’s a health hazard, it’s a safety hazard, it’s a values of homes hazard, it causes [insurance] premiums to go up, it’s a quality of life hazard.
And churches need to get involved, government can’t do this. This is something that churches can do. There are missions in Orange County, there are missions other places doing far more effective work in counseling people and getting them, to some degree, self-sufficient.
On crime, I would use my bully pulpit to do a couple of things. There are a couple of soft-on-crime DAs, one is in San Francisco and one is in Los Angeles, both of whom would not be there, in my opinion, but for the money that they got from George Soros, who also is soft-on-crime.
Both of them are facing recall elections, and I would urge people to recall them.
I also would also change the rhetoric, this anti-cop rhetoric that’s going on in the nation and going on in the state is unforgivable. The cops are not going out and using deadly force against black people because they’re black. There are many studies, including one very long one written in The Washington Post that looks at research going back over decades showing, if anything, cops were more hesitant or reluctant to pull the trigger on a black suspect than a white suspect.
The same year, there was an article in The New York Times about a black Harvard professor named Roland Fryer. He’s so brilliant he is the youngest tenured in the history of Harvard and Harvard, to my knowledge, is the oldest college in America. That’s how brilliant this guy is.
He just knew that because of the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, he just knew that police were using deadly force against black people just because they were black.
So he did a study and he said that the findings were the most surprising of my professional career not only were the police again not using deadly force against black people, they were more hesitant or reluctant to use deadly force against blacks than against whites.
And the reason that this is important is because it’s causing cops to pull back. It’s called the “Ferguson Effect” and some people now call it the “George Floyd Effect” rather than engage in proactive policing, the police are engaging in passive policing just responding to wire calls and that’s it.
Much of police work is discretionary, you’re driving around looking for bad guys doing bad things. Why get out of your car and investigate? Why get out of the car to meddle into a crowd? There’s a good chance you’re going to be accused of systemic racism, so cops are falling back.
Don’t just take my word for it, the former Mayor of Chicago – Rahm Emanuel – said that Chicago cops, because of these false accusations of systemic racism, had “gone fetal” meaning that they had engaged in passive policing.
It’s one of the many reasons why crime is up, and crime is up, including shootings and homicides in San Francisco, in LA, and in San Diego, in part because of the Ferguson Effect and in part because of the refusal for some of these DAs to prosecute people to the fullest extent of the law.
You also have cashless bail for crying out loud, so bad guys aren’t serving the full time, bad guys aren’t facing the consequences of their crimes, and under this Governor he’s overseen the release of 20,000 convicted felons, many of whom are violent felons and statistically they are likely to reoffend.
He used the COVID crisis as means to do that, he claimed that this was compassionate release, well compassionate release meaning that people in the streets who are more likely to be hurt and the demise of black and brown – the very people the Left claims to care about.
The other thing I would do in my 30 days is to talk a great deal about choice in education. We have a crisis in urban education in this state. It’s near the bottom of all the 50 states, 75 percent of black boys cannot read at state levels of proficiency, 50 percent of third graders cannot read at state levels of proficiency.
Now, 80 percent of the children in K-12 schools in California are black and brown. Again, the very people that the Left claims to care about.
I just saw a report that said that 2/3 of black parents do not want to send their kids back to Los Angeles Unified School District because they believe, in part, that they get the worst teachers. The teachers that score the worst are not going to the westside, they’re not going to the [San Fernando] Valley, they’re going to the inner-city. And many parents for the first time because of watching virtual education are seeing how crappy the education their kids are getting.
There are 300,000 public school teachers in California, nationwide I saw a study that roughly five percent of all public school teachers are incompetent.
Let’s assume that number applies to the 300,000 public school teachers here in California, that’s 15,000 public school teachers who are incompetent.
In any given year, 2.2 out 300,000 are fired. This to me is absolutely outrageous.
The money should follow the child rather than the other way around. One of the things I want to push for is true choice in education. My understanding is there may be a ballot initiative to set up educational savings accounts so the money – we’re spending roughly $12,000, I think it’s even more, per student in California – would go to the parent, the parent could then use for a public school if they choose to, a private school, a religious school, or a charter school.
All those options should be available. We have those options available for college and graduate school, why it’s a no-fly zone for K-12 is beyond me. The polls show that black and brown parents in the inner-city overwhelmingly support school choice.
If they go in there like lemmings and pull that lever for the Democratic Party, it does not give them the first thing they need in order to escape poverty, which is a quality high school education. That’s one where, presumably, when you graduate you can read, write, and compute at grade level.
All too often, when urban kids do graduate from high school, and they go onto try four-year school, they have to take remedial math and remedial English because the math and the English that they were taught was so bad or even nonexistent.
So, crime, the cost of living by suspending CEQA.
I’d also unleash the private sector to build homes for middle class people. For the first time in our state’s history, middle class people are leaving the state of California, and we’re talking about people making between $50,000 and $100,000. The primary reason they cite is they cannot afford a home.
There’s a magazine called CEO Magazine, been around for 17 years, and for 17 years asks CEOs which is the best state in which to do business and which is the worst based upon taxes, based upon spending, based upon the power of the public sector unions, based upon things like underfunded pension liability, based upon the extent to which there is a business friendly or business unfriendly atmosphere.
For 17 consecutive years of CEO Magazine’s existence California has been rated last and I’m going to do something about that within my first several weeks if I’m fortunate enough to become the next Governor of California.
As we’ve learned through the pandemic, one key vestige of the Governor’s office are the sprawling number of bureaucracies, boards, and commissions for which he has an appointment.
Our community witnessed it yesterday as the California Water Resources Control Board issued an historic curtailment order to water deliveries to the Central Valley.
In retrospect, the last Republican Governor in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was criticized for appointing individuals to these high-powered bureaucratic positions and even positions within his own office who were out-of-step with his views.
How would you tackle bureaucratic agencies and boards that would, in all likelihood, be hostile to your agenda? And how would you work around California’s Democratic supermajorities in the legislature?
Regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’ve heard this from many people both on the left and on the right when I’ve talked about my possibly getting into this race and I’ve often talked about what I considered to be the catastrophic failure of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This man came out of Hollywood and was used to adulation. He was used to being the Terminator. He was used to people looking up at him. He was used to being loved.
I’m Larry Elder, I’ve been called ‘Uncle Tom’ and a sellout and things I can’t even say in a family newspaper for almost all my career.
I don’t expect to be loved. I don’t know what I would feel like if the Left loved me. He was unaccustomed to that and when the teacher’s union started coming after him, the nurse’s union started coming after him, he actually caved and pivoted and began to govern in a more left-wing way than even Jerry Brown did in the second iteration of Jerry Brown governorship.
That’s not going to happen with me. I’m not going there to make friends. I’m going there to take names and change things.
These boards and commissions, whether it’s the [University of California] Regents, whether it’s the Public Utilities Commission, all these various coastal commissions, there are a whole bunch of commissions and boards and other organizations that run this state and they’re the ones that are pushing these regulations.
I am a limited government, light-touch kind of person and those are the kinds of people that I’m going to put on.
To me, it’s outrageous that voters vote for bond issue after bond issue after bond issue for water infrastructure and nothing happens. All they do is sit around and study, and study, and study and, of course, there are lawsuits because of CEQA, and nothing gets done.
We have added any depreciably to our energy capacity and to our underwater and desalination capacity in all most 40 years, when the state was nearly 50 percent the population it is right now.
I’m going to have a whole new attitude about that and bring in people that think the way I think, people like Steven Greenhut who’s written about our failure to build enough storage, half the rain is drained off to the Pacific Ocean, and we’re not doing anything at all about desalination even though many desalination plants that have been on the board would have been done by the private sector.
Israel is water self sufficient, so is Dubai. Israel sits on the coast of a little body of water known as the Mediterranean. We have a little body of water known as the Pacific Ocean. Why we can’t figure out how to become water self-sufficient when we have all these brainiacs in Silicon Valley. So I’m going to unleash the brains and the technology and use the bully pulpit to explain to people why we need to do this.
Regarding dealing with the legislature, you’re quite right. I will have a hostile legislature. Two-thirds Democrats in the Senate and Assembly and they’re not going to like me.
Well, I found out that a bill that has been vetoed has not been overriden since the 1980s, that’s almost 40 years. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed hundreds of bills and not a single one was overriden.
It turns out that when the Legislature passes something stupid and you go to the public and you explain why it’s stupid, all of a sudden the Senators and Assemblypersons get their phones start ringing and their constituents saying “What were you smoking?”
So it turns out that the power to veto is a lot stronger than people think. I also have the line-item veto. I do have the ability to declare a statewide emergency, as I will use on homelessness, and I have the bully pulpit. And I will use all of those things in order to turn the state around.
I also have talked to former Governors, including Democrats, but I’ve spoken with former Gov. Pete Wilson and he said what you need to do is tell the Democrats that if they don’t get buy-in from Republicans that you’re going to veto the legislation. If you bring in the Democrats and Republicans and get them to buy-in on whatever the issue the greater the likelihood the issue you want will get passed but not without Republican buy-in. Make it clear through your action and through your rhetoric that’s what you want.
So that’s some of the things that I’m going to do even with a hostile legislature.
The state is in the midst of its annual wildfire season. Gov. Newsom has taken some flak for misrepresenting his administration’s work on wildfire efforts. What’s your take?
This guy lied by a factor of seven about how many fallen trees and how much dry vegetation he cleared.
When outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown left a plan, I think it was about 500,000 acres of fallen trees and dry vegetation he planned on clearing, Gavin Newsom said he was going to follow the plan.
He only did about 13 percent of what he said he did. Even the LA Times couldn’t size that. Again, outrageous.
It appears that, throughout the pandemic, Californians yearned for a sense of coherence when it came to the public health response. Often what they got from the Newsom administration was two steps forward and three steps back.
How would you change the posture?
Even Nancy Pelosi even back in April said we can’t mandate somebody get a vaccine. Now, you have Gavin Newsom making every state worker who hasn’t been vaccinated be tested once a week and – get this – to wear a mask at work.
I thought the whole point to get vaccinated is to protect yourself from those that have not been vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated, why should you wear a mask to protect yourself against other people who’ve not been vaccinated when both of you have assumed the risk of not getting vaccinated.
I’ve been vaccinated. I’m an old man, I’ve got the prospect of co-morbidities, and I believe that vaccines work, but a lot of Americans have made a different decision. And in California, everyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated. So a lot of people have made the decision, rightly or wrongly, not to be vaccinated.
In regarding the large number of blacks that the Left claims to care about who have not been vaccinated, I want to say one more thing about that.
You had Joe Biden during the campaign saying “If Donald Trump recommended the vaccine, I wouldn’t take it.” Kamala Harris said it twice, including during the debate.
And you’re shocked that people, including a lot of people who didn’t vote for Donald Trump like black people, aren’t taking the vaccine? Look in the freaking mirror.
I used to be a small business owner, it’s one of the things that I think I bring to the table. I’m not just a lawyer, I’m not just a radio host. I also ran a small business for 14 years. It didn’t go bankrupt, I didn’t liquidate it, I sold it and moved back to California in the early 90s and the business went on for a number of years.
A good one-third of small businesses are gone. Dead forever. All the hopes, all the dreams of these business people are completely dashed.
When you run a business, you don’t work 9 to 5, you work 60, 70, 80 hours per week. Many businesses fail under the best of times and then those that do succeed have very thin profit margins and are going payroll to payroll.
And what [Newsom] did was just take a hatchet to the hopes and dreams of I don’t know how many Californians who never get those businesses back. It’s just been offensive.
This is not consistent with science, all you had to do was tell people what the perils are. We know the coronavirus is a serious thing we could have figured out how to engage in social distancing, how to wear a mask, how to do what we need to do. But we could have kept our state open.
But he didn’t do that. He kept his winery open.
It is offensive to me, that’s why 2.2 million people signed the petition to get this guy out. More than a quarter of them are Democrats and Independents
When Gavin Newsom’s staff says that [the recall] is all done by Republicans, it’s offensive to the people that signed this. He used to use this talking point until I got into the race – he used to say [the recall] was being led by white supremacists.
Well, I guess they dropped that talking point after I got in.
Elizabeth Warren cut a commercial the other day. Notice she didn’t say a damn thing about crime, a damn thing about coronavirus, a damn thing about housing, a damn thing about cost of living. She just went on to talk about how this was a Republican takeover.
That’s all they have to say. They can’t defend the man’s record and it’s pathetic.
It appears that your entrance has shaken up Gov. Newsom’s political team, as they’ve begun drawing attacks on you – such as comments you made to The Sacramento Bee regarding setting the minimum wage at $0 and allowing for a natural minimum wage dictated by the market.
How does that make you feel?
They’ve recognized that, even before I got in. When it was speculated that I was going to get in, the SEIU union gave him $5 million.
This business about me saying that there ought not be a minimum wage, what they didn’t say in my interview with The Sacramento Bee, I said it over and over and over again –
By the way, we taped it. We got a copy of it. I knew that they were going to pick and choose things I said and take them all out of context or not give the full comment.
What I said is that The New York Times in 1987 did an editorial – not an Op-Ed – an editorial. Headline: The ideal minimum wage? $0.00. New York Times said that. They did a 180 since then, but Economics 101 has not changed. They changed.
I also put up a video of Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and Milton Friedman – all economists – all talking about the damage the minimum wage has done to the very people that the Left claims to care about: unskilled black and brown people.
Walter Williams talks about how when he was a young man, the minimum wage wasn’t that big of a deal because he made 65 cents an hour when the minimum wage was 40 cents an hour.
But, over the years, they’ve jacked it up far beyond inflation and now the very people that are hurt the most are unskilled black and brown people. That’s why you have the phenomenon of nearly 50 percent of black teenagers who want to find a job during the summers not finding one.
Now you’re a high school student or even a high school dropout, you’re not worth $15 an hour. Maybe you’re worth $10, or $12, or $11. And some third-party called the government is going to interfere with your voluntary arrangement to sell your labor, somebody in Sacramento making that decision for you?
It’s offensive to me. I keep saying the word “offensive,” but it is.
Eric Garcetti is the Mayor of Los Angeles, my city. Several people called me and told me the following: he was about ready to sign a measure to increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour – by the way, it’s $15 an hour now. He invited a few small business people in to talk about this.
Twenty or 30 people were brought in, all brought their profit and loss statements. All of them told Garcetti, “right now my profit margins are very thin.” If you jack up the cost of labor, and that’s the number one cost of most businesses, I’m going to have to defer a hiring that I was going to make, I’m going to have to cut hours, raise prices, all of which negative consequences.
And he listened very intently.
This man, Eric Garcetti, went to the London School of Economics. He didn’t study economics, he studied ethnic studies. But one would think maybe by osmosis he’d learn a little bit about economics 101.
So he stands up, buttons his coat, and says to these people who work 60, 70, 80 hours a week, “I believe you can absorb the cost,” walks out the room, and signs the bill.
The man has never run a hot dog stand telling people who run businesses, I know better than you do how you can make profit.
It again, is offensive. It’s one of the attitudes that I’m going to change. I’m going to use the bully pulpit to explain things, just as I have to you, in ways that Joe and Joan Six-Pack can understand.
And that’s what they’re afraid of.
Tonight, a number of fellow replacement candidates are taking the debate stage at the Nixon Library. Obviously, you will not be joining them due to a pre-arranged event in Bakersfield.
What, if any, advice do you have for them?
Keep your eyes on the prize.
The prize is Gavin Newsom. Unless 50 percent plus one voter votes to recall Gavin Newsom, it doesn’t matter what the rest of us do. So, keep pointing out the crime, the homelessness, the outrageous cost of living through the average price of homes
Keep your eye on what Gavin Newsom has done – ignoring science and slammed down this state in the most Draconian way than any of the other 49 governors – while having his own kids enjoy in-person private education, exempting his own winery from the mandates, sitting up there at that French Laundry restaurant not only incurring a $12,000 wine bill but sitting there with the very lawmakers and medical personnel of his staff that drafted the mandates that they violated by not wearing masks and by not engaging on social distancing.
Keep your eye on the prize. The prize is Gavin Newsom.
If they engage in a circular firing squad, all they’re doing is enhancing the prospects of Gavin Newsom staying in office until next year.