LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California judge on Wednesday cleared the way for conservative talk radio host Larry Elder to join the field of candidates for an upcoming recall election aimed at removing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office.
Elder scored a swift court victory in Sacramento, where he challenged a decision by state election officials to block him from the September recall ballot.
In a tweet, Elder wrote, “Victory! My next one will be on Sept. 14 at the ballot box.”
He added: “This isn’t just a victory for me, but a victory for the people of California. And not just those who favor the recall and support me, but all voters, including many who will come to know me.”
Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl disagreed with a state decision that Elder failed to meet requirements to qualify to run in the election.
Under a new requirement, candidates for California governor must publicly release tax returns for the five most recent years to qualify for the ballot. It was passed in an effort by Democrats to force former President Donald Trump to release his tax returns during the 2020 election. A court struck down the presidential requirement but left it in place for gubernatorial candidates.
But the judge found the rule didn’t apply to recall elections and, even if it did, Elder has substantially complied. Forty-two other candidates have been cleared to appear on the recall ballot.
The election, in the nation’s most populous state, will be a marquee contest with national implications, watched closely as a barometer of the public mood heading toward the 2022 elections, when a closely divided Congress again will be in play.
Elder’s court win also will be celebrated by recall organizers who hoped for a large field of prominent candidates to attract voters. When Elder announced his candidacy, he immediately became one of the most recognized Republicans in the race, given his years on talk radio as well as appearances on Fox News and other media.
Elder announced his campaign July 12, but when a preliminary list of candidates was released last week, he wasn’t on it. The state argued his tax information was incomplete, but Elder said he’s the target of political “shenanigans” by Democrats aligned with Newsom who don’t want him on the ballot.
Meanwhile, virtually the entire field of candidates appears set.
Other Republicans who qualified to run include reality TV personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner; businessman John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in 2018; state lawmaker Kevin Kiley and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who also was headed to court in a dispute over his title on the ballot.
Voters in the election will be sent a ballot with two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And who should replace him? If more than half of voters say “yes” to the first question, then whoever on the list of potential replacements gets the most votes is the new governor of the nation’s most populous state. With numerous candidates and no clear front-runner, it’s possible that someone could win with less than 25% of the votes.
The push to oust the first-term, Democratic governor is largely rooted in frustration with school and business closures during the pandemic that upended daily life for millions of residents.
Ronayne reported from Sacramento.