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SAN DIEGO — Republican gubernatorial candidate and conservative talk show host Larry Elder addressed a crowded room Monday night in Mission Valley, touching on public education, the cost of living in California and the state’s homelessness issue.

Hundreds of Republicans from across Southern California gathered at the Town and Country Resort to hear from Elder. Elder, 69, joined the recall race last month and many polls — including those conducted by Inside California Politics / Emerson College — show him leading the pack of Republican candidates vying to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if the recall effort is successful.

He received an enthusiastic welcome from attendees at the event, but didn’t field questions from members of the local news media.

“Two percent of the kid at Crenshaw High School are math proficient,” he said during his remarks. “Who sends their kid to a school where only 2% of the kids are math proficient if they have an option out? I want to give parents choice in education.”

Like others in the Republican field, Elder hammered the state’s efforts to combat homelessness.

“Many of them have mental illness; many of them have substance abuse,” he said. “They need to be treated and cared for, but we need to build low-cost housing so they have somewhere to go. We cannot tolerate what’s going on, having people pitching tents and sleeping on sidewalks.”

Another topic Elder said he’s passionate about is finding solutions for the state’s water supply.

“We haven’t added in any appreciable way to our water supply in 40 years when the state was half the size it is right now, yet voters pass bond measure after bond measure setting aside billions of dollars for aqueducts, for underwater storage,” he said.

Elder has quickly gained support despite being a relatively late addition to the race.

In a statewide poll of 1,000 registered voters released last week by Inside California Politics / Emerson College, Elder, at 23%, was voters’ leading choice to replace Newsom. Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and reality TV show star and ex-Olympian Caitlyn Jenner both were at 7% and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer was at 4%. Some 40% of those polled said they were undecided.

The recall election is slated for Sept. 14.