But that ended Tuesday night, as some of contenders on the stage at a recall debate in Sacramento took aim at conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, the front-runner among the replacement candidates in many of the most recent public opinion polls in the Sept. 14 election.
CALIFORNIA RECALL ELECTION OF GOV. NEWSOM GETS UNDERWAY AS VOTERS START RECEIVING BALLOTS
Neither Newsom nor Elder took part in the debate, which included businessman and 2018 GOP gubernatorial nominee John Cox, former two-term San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and state assembly member Kevin Kiley.
Cox took aim at Elder for skipping out on a another debate, saying, "We don’t need more media personalities who don’t show up to meet the press."
And asked about Elder’s controversial position to abolish the minimum wage, Cox said, "I sure wish Larry were here to defend this position, and he should be."
Elder has said he won’t take part in any of the debates unless Newsom joins the replacement candidates on the stage.
Faulconer and Kiley also disagreed with Elder’s stance in favor of scrapping any minimum wage, with Faulconer describing the position as "indefensible."
Faulconer also ripped Elder over controversial comments from two decades ago that women were less knowledgeable than men about current events, economics and politics. Faulconer decried the comments, saying "that’s bulls—t."
Fox News reached out to the Elder campaign for a response to the debate attacks but has yet to receive a response.
The showdown took place the day after ballots in the recall contest started being sent to the 22 million registered voters in the nation’s most populous state and amid a surge in campaign activity, as the Republican replacement candidates have stepped up their attacks on the governor and Newsom kicked into higher gear his efforts to encourage Democrats and other supporters to cast ballots. Newsom and his allies acknowledge that they need a strong turnout to counter Republican voters motivated to cast ballots in hopes of ousting the governor.
The latest public opinion polls indicate those likely to vote in the recall contest are divided on ousting Newsom. The surveys also point to how crucial turnout will be in a state where registered Democrats greatly outnumber registered Republicans. One of the recent surveys, a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll conducted three weeks ago, indicated that Republicans appear to be more motivated to cast ballots in the recall contest. Although Republicans only account for roughly a quarter of all registered voters in California, the poll suggested they made up a third of those most likely to vote in the recall election.
Voters are being asked two questions on the Newsom recall ballots. The first question is whether the governor should be removed from office. If more than 50% support removing Newsom, the second question offers a list of candidates running to replace the governor. If the governor is recalled, the candidate who wins the most votes on the second question – regardless of whether it’s a majority or just a small plurality – would succeed Newsom in steering California.
Until now, Republicans have stayed united in keeping their focus on building support to oust Newsom. And earlier this month the California GOP declined to endorse any of the Republican replacement candidates, arguing that backing one of the contenders would possibly divide Republicans and depress voter turnout among those supporting the candidates that didn’t land the party’s endorsement.
But in the month since Elder entered the race, he’s far outpaced his GOP rivals in fundraising, and most of the latest polls indicate he’s the front-runner among the gubernatorial replacement candidates.
Republican Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete turned transgender rights activist and nationally known TV personality, was also invited to the debate organized by the Sacramento press club but didn’t attend. Her campaign said she would be assessing wildfire damage this week.
Former Rep. Doug Ose, another Republican replacement candidate who was also invited to the debate, dropped out of the race earlier Tuesday after revealing that he suffered a heart attack Sunday. His campaign statement said he is expected to make a full recovery.
The recall push was launched in June of last year over claims the governor mishandled the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The effort was fueled by the state's COVID restrictions on businesses and houses of worship, school shutdowns and even opposition to the state's high taxes. The effort surged in the autumn after Newsom's dinner at an uber-exclusive restaurant, which – at best – skirted rules imposed by the governor to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.