Larry Elder Looks to a Future in Conservative Politics
The California recall turned the conservative talk radio host into a bona fide Trump-era political celebrity.
Defeated in the recall, Larry Elder looks to a future in conservative politics.
Though he did not win the recall election, Larry Elder was the leading Republican vote-getter in all 58 California counties.Credit…Mark Abramson for The New York Times
Sept. 15, 2021, 12:56 p.m. ET
If there was a breakout star of California’s recall election, it was Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host who, over the course of the spring and summer, turned himself into a bona fide Trump-era political celebrity.
Mr. Elder was the leading Republican vote-getter in all 58 California counties. Statewide, he was first on the question of who should replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he were removed from office, with the only exception being in San Francisco, where a little-known Democrat had 21 percent of the vote early Wednesday.
Mr. Elder has appeared on Fox News 52 times this year and won a platform that he is unlikely to relinquish. Last month, he told a local television reporter in Sacramento that is he is “very likely” to run for governor in 2022, when Mr. Newsom will be facing re-election. His 47 percent vote total on the replace Newsom question makes him a formidable foe against any other Republican candidate.
Yet as Mr. Elder has captured the heart of California’s Trumpian base, his candidacy demonstrated the limitations of that strategy. Mr. Newsom coasted to a recall victory with a margin nearly identical to President Biden’s 2020 victory in California; Mr. Elder did not bring any new voters to the Republican Party in a state where Democrats hold a nearly two-to-one voter registration advantage.
Winning office may not be the goal.
Conservative figures can make a good living on Fox News appearances, and Mr. Elder is skilled at communicating with a right-wing audience from his years on the radio. There is a list of candidates who have lost high-profile races only to transform themselves into political celebrities with large platforms as they seek office again: Democrats Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Republicans John James in Michigan and Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania among them.
Mr. Elder’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Marshall, on Wednesday morning declined to comment about his future plans. She wouldn’t say if his vow to run again remained operative. During a concession speech on Tuesday night, Mr. Elder didn’t address 2022 but told his supporters to “stay tuned.”
“We may have lost the battle,” he said, “but we are going to win the war.”