OAKLAND — Two prominent California recall candidates and the Sacramento Bee editorial board called Friday for GOP frontrunner Larry Elder to drop out of the race after his past comments about women and allegations made by his ex-fiancee surfaced this week.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner exhorted Elder to exit the contest, further roiling the race as millions of Californians begin to vote.
“Elder's backwards positions harm women's rights and the livelihoods of California families,” Faulconer said in a late Friday afternoon statement. “Elder’s lack of judgement and character flaws threaten the success and credibility of this historic recall movement — Californians will not vote to recall one dysfunctional Governor if it means replacing him with another.”
Faulconer suggested that Elder has become a liability that could cost Republicans a chance to unseat Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Both Faulconer and Jenner weighed in after POLITICO reported that Elder's ex-fiancee Alexandra Datig had alleged he emotionally abused her and threatened her with a gun.
Stories by multiple outlets this week pointed to Elder's past statements that: Employers should know if their female employees plan to have children; “Smart women” overlook “boorish behavior by men”; Women know less about political issues than men; and that “women exaggerate the problem of sexism.” Elder made the comments over his decades-long career as a conservative talk radio host who had a reputation for saying what was on his mind, no matter how controversial.
Jenner on Friday was first to call on Elder to leave the race: “‘women know less than men about political issues, economics and current events.' @larryelder DROP OUT NOW. You are not what CA wants let alone what we need. I am the proud father of very powerful, intelligent, successful women. You’re as bad as @GavinNewsom towards women.”
The influential capital city newspaper, The Sacramento Bee, soon after issued a lengthy editorial asking Elder to leave the contest based on the Datig allegations and various statements about women.
Elder said on Twitter that he is scheduled to appear Friday night on “Hannity” to “respond to the latest attacks on my candidacy.”
The blowback from some Republicans has not produced a parallel exodus of Elder’s supporters. A representative of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, an influential conservative group that endorsed Elder and has spent some $200,000 for the recall, said the group stood by its support for him.
But the growing backlash to Elder's candidacy speaks to how his rapid ascent reordered the race after candidates for months struggled to enthuse the GOP base. Elder entered later than most Republican contenders but quickly vaulted to the top of polls and fundraising tallies.
Elder's past controversial remarks have provided plenty of fodder for Newsom as the governor looks to rally disengaged Democrats against the recall. Newsom has made Elder a centerpiece of his campaign message, seeking to jolt voters by warning them that Elder could become their next governor if they do not vote.
Faulconer in particular has decried Elder's record on women, using a Tuesday debate to spotlight Elder's comments that employers should be able to ask women about their child rearing plans and Elder's essay asserting that women voters are more easily manipulated based on research that they know less about current events. Faulconer assailed those remarks as “bulls—” at the debate.
Republican recall contenders previously had coalesced behind a strategy of not attacking one another, arguing that conservative infighting would fracture their base and undercut the goal of recalling Newsom. The California Republican Party followed that logic in declining to endorse a successor.
But the controversy encircling Elder has spurred his GOP rivals to break that truce. Faulconer has taken the lead in lambasting Elder as the former mayor looks to attract moderate voters after building his campaign on a centrist message that argues he is the only Republican capable of carrying a deeply Democratic state.
Recall ballots ask voters whether to recall Newsom and who should replace him. If a majority votes to recall Newsom, the candidate who receives the most votes to succeed him would become the next governor.
That means a Republican could prevail with far less than a majority of the vote. If Faulconer can pull in enough independents or moderate Democrats and Republicans, that could match or overcome Elder's advantage among more conservative voters.
Millions of voters round the state now have ballots in hand and have until Sept. 14 to cast their votes.
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