CA Recall Election Pits Grassroots Conservatism vs. Republican Establishment; Which Will CA Choose?

AP Photo/Michael R. Blood, File

There are over 100 candidates signed up so far to contend for the California Governor’s seat should Gavin Newsom be recalled. Candidates have until Friday, July 16 to declare and officially register their candidacy, so I expect there will be several more.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The question of whether Gavin Newsom should be recalled and, if so, who should replace him are on the same two-question ballot on September 14. If Question 1 doesn’t receive more than 50 percent of the vote, Question 2 is irrelevant.)

Half of these people I wouldn’t know from Adam. There are about 15 or so Democrats registered, over 20 No Party Preference candidates (California’s version of “Independent”), a few Green Party candidates, and one American Independent. Then there are the Republicans, many of them name recognizable, and others, not so much.

In terms of the candidates rising to the top, we have the usual suspects: Caitlyn Jenner, John Cox, Doug Ose, Kevin Faulconer, Major Williams, and Errol Webber. They have been known factors for a while and continue to do what is needed to make their presence known. As we all know, the “donor money” is behind Jenner, Cox, and Faulconer, as they have all made a big splash with sophisticated ads, media spots, and public appearances.

Over the last week, there’s been a shift in the trajectory of the candidates, and the two latest entrants highlight the fact that this race breaks down to a contest between the state’s grassroots conservatives and the Republican establishment.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, a staunch supporter of the recall and legal foil to Gavin Newsom’s one-man rule, declared his candidacy in a kick-off rally on Saturday.

On Monday, political pundit and talk radio celebrity Larry Elder entered the fray. For the most part, both of these men were enlisted by the particular movements in which they surround themselves. Fellow radio host and Prager U founder Dennis Prager asked Elder to run, and several high-profile community organizations in the State were in on the campaign to draft him.

As stated above, Kiley has been in the fight from the beginning and has been a proven champion for the State’s residents in many ways; along with Assemblyman James Gallagher, he filed suit against Newsom challenging the use of executive powers (and won), he championed legislation to end an unlimited “State of Emergency” declaration, and he continually speaks out on the Assembly floor against a corrupt Legislature that is simply there to rubber-stamp whatever the Governor chooses to do.

Elder definitely has a huge platform and name recognition. With his colleagues in television and radio, he has media operations at his disposal to promote his candidacy and to get his message out. Jenner has a similar platform in the Kardashian-Social Media-Reality TV realm.

Kiley and many of the other candidates have less name recognition. However, Kiley, who has been at the forefront of this recall fight since before the pandemic, literally wrote the book outlining the reasons why voters should Recall Gavin Newsom, exposing the depths of Newsom’s corruption, and toured the state to both promote his book and to meet and get to know the state’s grassroots conservative activists and everyday Californians. So, Kiley is more cemented in the rural, suburban, and urban communities of California than Larry Elder can ever hope to be in less than 60 days.

Elder is definitely urban, and urbane. But part of the uprising in the state is that urban and urbane has dictated life in California for far too long when the state is made up of so many more people who do not sign on to what Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento think is best for them.

This is probably the marked difference between these two candidates, and really defines the choices in choosing any candidate:

Do you want a Republican Establishment/GOPe Governor, or do you want a Constitutional, Grassroots Conservative Governor?

Larry Elder represents the former. He’s part of the professional speaker circuit, debates and rubs shoulders with politicians, has testified on Capitol Hill, written and promoted his books across the nation, and regularly mixes it up in the Conservative, Inc. worlds of Fox News and other Republican-leaning outlets. All well and good, but in this type of milieu, it becomes less and less about the actual people you are supposed to be serving or your audience, and more about the platform and the talking points of the office or role you inhabit. While I listened to Elder early on in my conservative life, after several years I stopped, because I was hearing the same talking points over and over again. The same statistics he was quoting five years before were still being used to paint Blacks in a less-than-positive light. Black conservative voices can express the issues and contradictions existent in our communities while still using language that uplifts the community, not tears it down. There are nuances that surround why certain Blacks keep voting Democrat and maintain a hatred and distrust for the Republican Party. It would be nice to see those nuances and contradictions explored, rather than what is typically seen and heard within Black Conservative, Inc. circles.

The Conscious Black Conservatives that I know do not see Elder as a voice that uplifts the Black community. In this recall election, we will need Democrat voices and votes too, and there are many Black Democrats who do not appreciate what Elder has had to say about the Black community either. So, that same huge platform that gives him recognition will, no doubt, also cost him votes.

Kiley represents the latter. From his beginning as an Assemblyman he has emphasized community and grassroots connections, and the people I know who live in his district have attested to this. But Kiley also has stood up for all Californians, regardless of their party affiliation, particularly those who have lost businesses, those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost their livelihoods because of the horrible AB5 law, a particular California blight that Biden-Harris are trying to embed nationwide, and for mothers and fathers whose children have lost over a year of education, as well as sports enrichment and opportunities.

To present another analogy, it’s also a distinction between blue jeans and Armani. Everyone relates to blue jeans, probably have several pairs, and wear them for various means—from doing dirty work to going out on the town. Not everyone can relate to, or afford an Armani suit, and there are very few uses for having one.

Does California want a practical, work-oriented, hands-on candidate, or do we want the beauty and artistry of a fine suit, but one that could potentially be limited in use, and even empty? We have the latter already, and we are living out the damage.

I looked on the “Vision” portion of the Larry Elder for Governor website, and the first thing I saw was, “I Am In It To Win It.”

Hmm… We’ve already endured almost two years of a person whose greatest identifiers are, “Me,” “Myself,” and “I.” Is this an indicator that we could be drafting another one?

Elder does write a longer “explainer” story on his Vision page. But in my opinion, it speaks more to, “I have common sense” and “I will be the anti-Gavin” than it does to Elder’s vision for what California can be, and how he plans to accomplish it.

And, I’ve got common sense, something sadly lacking in Sacramento, especially under this smug, corrupt governor.

This is a change of heart for me.

I subscribe to the Walter Cronkite philosophy. I’d love to serve. I’d hate to have to run. I just don’t believe I have the stomach, the temperament, the personality, the drive, the willingness to deal with these “doofi” in Sacramento for the next four years of my life. Have I exhausted all of my excuses yet?

Newsom has made those excuses irrelevant.

Has he really made those excuses irrelevant? There is something to be said for a fire in the belly, and this does not engender confidence that Elder has it, or is able to generate it when necessary.

And it is very necessary.

In contrast, on the Kevin Kiley for Governor website, the “Roadmap” starts with an actual vision: of what will be required of not only a Governor but of CALIFORNIANS, in order to see the state turn around. It’s honest, it’s real, and it demands responsibility on the part of the voter. It’s a vision of partnership, not of dictatorship.

Elder has tremendous charm, charisma, and smarts. You don’t found and run a successful law practice and talk radio/political pundit career without those. Any successful business requires common sense as well as practical wisdom and knowledge. No doubt that Elder exhibits those in spades. His personal story is also compelling and inspiring.

Despite these pluses, I don’t necessarily believe that Elder really has that fire to not only empower the people but to help us lead the state out of its dark place. He wants to see change, obviously. But California needs more than change; we need Radical Transformation. And that requires more than others pushing you into a role. I don’t sense Elder is really down to take the reins, and I particularly do not trust some of the monied interests involved in his candidacy.

What California needs at this particular time is a visionary leader who honors the Constitutional foundations of the country, the State, and the office of Governor, and leads with that in mind. Kiley has reflected this not only in his youthful energy and passion for the rule of law, his writings and speeches, but in his legislation and his actions. It takes cajones to sue a sitting Governor. More than that, it takes a fire in the belly.

One of the most inspiring parts of Kiley’s Kick-off Rally speech on Saturday was this line that he delivered, along with this kickass campaign video:

“The most important job of our next governor is to make it less important who the governor is. Return power to the people.”

That encourages me because if this last year revealed anything, it is that our government betters assume that they have all the power and we have none, and that is the way it is supposed to be. However, Elder’s words and verbiage do not reflect a republican governance perspective. There is not a whole lot of talk about “We the People.” There is talk about how he loves the state and wants to see it restored. Great, but there are many issues that need to be addressed on Day 1 for anyone who wins the office, and Elder’s platform so far is lacking in not only the focus of a new administration but a restoration of power to the actual people who elect the politicians.

One of those Day 1 issues will be AB5, which has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of over 4.5 million freelancers, independent professionals, and self-employed in the State. This issue is part of what put Kevin Kiley on the map, and he has been a champion for the community to see our right to “our work, our choice” restored. Kiley understands that restoration of independent enterprise and small business is pivotal to the survival of the state. Kiley has also crafted legislation toward that end, including legislation to repeal AB5. Thanks to our Democrat Supermajority, these were either never brought to the floor, or voted down. As Governor, every independent professional knows Kiley will strip the law from Day 1, and that is a major reason that they back a Kiley candidacy.

Larry Elder has made no mention of AB5 either on his website or in his discussions thus far. This law is a uniquely California problem that has impacted the entire nation, and may further impact the nation should the PRO Act pass. If your plans are to run for governor of the state that created a law that has decimated the lives and economic output of millions, how can you fail to not only have this on your radar but to even speak a word about it?

California needs a radical transformation in its policies, as well as the passion and a fighter mentality that is going to pull this state out of the morass. I am not confident that the Republican Establishment/Armani suit governance that Elder represents could get the job done. I am also not convinced that Elder is in it only for the people of California.

Kiley has a vision on how that radical transformation can come about, he has expressed it, and he has been in the Recall fight, even before any of us knew what the fight was about. His Conservative grassroots, blue jeans representation of governance is what is necessary. The fact that Kiley desires to partner with the citizens of California, not rule over them, is especially reassuring.

Whatever people decide, or which candidate comes to the fore, the choice for governor will be between those two visions – grassroots conservatism or the Republican establishment. What I am most encouraged about is the quality choices that are rising to the top. It is forcing voters to research the candidates, and really consider their decisions, rather than the knee-jerk reactions of a “D” or an “R” next to the name.

Californians: What do you want the state to look like in six months to a year? Which candidate do you feel can best help us accomplish this?


If you are in California, and interested in hearing from Kevin Kiley, Larry Elder, and a few of the other gubernatorial candidates, you don’t want to miss this Recall Rally Event being held on July 23! Visit Republican Party of Riverside County for details and to sign up.