Conservative radio host Larry Elder officially kicked off his recall challenge to California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday, announcing "We’ve got a state to save" and adding a nationally known name into the race to replace the embattled politician.
"People are fed up," the 69-year-old attorney told Fox News in an afternoon phone call. "2.2 million people signed this petition, which meant a lot of Democrats and a lot of independents who voted for this man changed their minds."
Newsom first won the election in 2018 in a landslide. But since then, devastating wildfires, rolling power outages, a pandemic and a surge in violent crime have left voters soured.
Elder, a South Central Los Angeles native, criticized Newsom as out of touch with the needs and desires of Californians.
Meanwhile, the governor has blamed the recall effort on White nationalists and supporters of former President Donald Trump.
"Gavin Newsom is trying to characterize this race as a race against himself and a bunch of Trump-supporting White nationalists," Elder said. "Now you’ve seen me on TV…do I look like a White nationalist?"
Newsom has come under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially business shutdowns and school reopenings, as well as concerns about shortages of water and electricity. He even had to declare a state of emergency during an extreme heat wave last month just so residents could use their own generators to power their air conditioners due to state laws.
Newsom also drew the ire of many critics after he was photographed with a group of high-level medical lobbyists at a tony restaurant, seemingly flouting his own COVID-19 safety protocols.
Critics, Elder included, are underwhelmed by his efforts on education, unemployment and the economy and say California is lagging in those areas.
"We're basically paying people not to work, and business people are complaining about that," Elder said. "He's not listening."
And last month, a bombshell NPR report revealed the governor had taken about $150 million out of the state’s forest management program even as the threat of wildfires was blowing up.
"I began looking at the arrogance of this man, how he put down these harsh coronavirus mandates, the most harsh in the entire country – while his own kids were still enjoying in school a private education," he told Fox News in an afternoon phone call. "He was at that French Laundry [restaurant] with the very people that wrote and drafted the mandates that both of them were violating by not socially distancing, by not wearing masks, which showed you they really weren't afraid [of the virus]."
He argued that Newsom is "totally beholden" to the teachers union and does nothing to try and uplift the state’s embattled police forces as big city crime surges up and down the coastline.
He also said the governor’s plans to address homelessness do nothing to address the root causes – which include mental health issues and substance abuse.
Elder sees the Golden State’s homelessness crisis, rising crime and an exodus of young residents and businesses as signs of mismanagement on behalf of the state’s first-term governor.
California is no longer what it once was, he said.
In 1945, just after the end of World War II, his dad left the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles, where he got two jobs and was able to buy a house and raise a family.
"If somebody worked three full-time jobs as a janitor [today], an eighth-grade dropout could not do what my dad did," he said. "That is how much the cost of living has gone up."
He blamed the state’s abundance of regulations, high taxes and housing shortage for the high cost of living.
As a result, he said, people are packing up and moving to low-regulation states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee. And last year was the first time in state history that more people left California than moved in.
"This is a man, Gavin Newsom, who’s turned his back on the average Californian," Elder said. "There’s a war against the middle class, a war against the working class. This man kept his own winery open while he was shutting down other businesses."
Newsom has an enormous fundraising advantage and has already been accused of trying to "buy votes" by other recall challengers due to his use of corporate donations toward coronavirus relief.
So Elder is encouraging people from across the country to visit his site, electelder.com, and support the campaign.
"Why should somebody outside of California care? Because like in Washington, D.C., we have a Democrat leader, both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by the Democrats, we’ve got supermajorities running our Senate and our Assembly," he said. "Republicans don’t even need to show up, and look what’s happened to the state. So the way California goes, the way the rest of the country goes – coming to a theater near you if we don’t do something about turning around California."
Elder hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, "The Larry Elder Show," and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law. He is also a regular guest on Fox News.
He joins a Republican field that includes former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, 2018 GOP nominee John Cox, state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, the former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and former police officer Steve Chavez Lodge, the fiancé of "Real Housewives" star Vicki Gunvalson.
Elder says he’s not running against any of them – just Newsom.
"I want to be the person to get the highest number of votes, but all of us, meaning all of the Republicans, recognize the target," he said. "The villain here is Gavin Newsom, and his arrogance in having his own kids enjoy in-school, private education while shutting it out for everybody else, having his own winery business remain open while shutting down other people’s businesses."
Newsom’s campaign did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.
Despite dozens of attempts at recalling the California governor, such a move has succeeded only once before – in 2003, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger unseated Democrat Gray Davis.