Behind the Scenes at Larry Elder's Election Night Party

At a private suite at a Hilton hotel in Costa Mesa, California, about 50 VIPs gathered prior to Larry Elder's concession speech Tuesday night. There were a couple actors, a few GOP officials and an assortment of campaign insiders who dined on shrimp and took advantage of a full and open bar. A photographer who has sat with Snoop Dogg, Quentin Tarantino and other celebrities lamented that his black-and-white shots of Elder are some of the best he's ever taken, but he had to remove his credits from them because he fears "woke extremists will cancel me." On a TV screen at about 8:53 p.m. local time, the media began calling the recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom, but few in the room bothered to react.

Perhaps it's because Elder's goal of taking the governorship away from Newsom was always a long shot, given Democrats in the Golden State outnumber Republicans by a margin of nearly two-to-one.

Elder spent Tuesday in his seventh-floor hotel room making appearances on Fox News and on radio shows owned by Salem Media, where he's been a host for decades. In the ballroom below, the faithful danced to a live band and posed for photos with a man sporting a giant cutout of Elder's head, while just outside a company called DMH Meyer sold about 70 pro-Elder T-shirts.

While the race was declared over, hundreds of Elderados (his name for his fans) who had crowded the hotel for several hours weren't impatient to hear from the man they came to see. "It's too early. He shouldn't concede with only 15 percent of the vote counted. He shouldn't give the media the satisfaction," one man told a cadre of listeners just before Elder hit the stage.

At 10 p.m. sharp, Elder left his room and strolled down to the ballroom surrounded by security and campaign officials who shielded him from reporters. Inside the ballroom he delivered a speech where he echoed the sentiments shared by his admirers: that he didn't only run against Newsom, but also against the media, berating CNN for allegedly biased coverage, a Los Angeles Times columnist for calling him "the Black face of white Supremacy" and those reporters who refused to cover an incident in which a couple of eggs were tossed at him during a campaign stop near Venice Beach.

"What do you think would have happened if a candidate such as Barack Obama running for president had a white woman in a gorilla mask throw an egg at him?" he asked as the audience laughed and cheered. "Front-page news, Washington Post; front-page news, New York Times; 'systemic racism alive and well in America'.… I'll be called sexist, so I'm going to be very careful about this: People told me this white woman had a gorilla mask. I said to one of my friends, 'How do you know it's a mask?'"

The media divides Americans by race, said Elder. "Knock it off," he shouted. "We believe in the dream of MLK.… I'll speak slowly because I know CNN is here. 'Larry Elder says there's no racism in America,'" he said as if to mock a news report. "No, I didn't say that. Well, 8 percent of Americans believe Elvis is still alive. I don't know what to tell you. But to the extent that it is humanly possible, we have achieved the dream of Martin Luther King, where people are being evaluated by the content of their character and not the color of their skin."

Sticking to the theme of race, Elder charged that Barack Obama "made things worse," and he talked about what the former president said about the killing of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

"I'm a uniter; we are uniters. We are going to bring this country together," he told the crowd. "We don't divide by race, we don't divide by gender, we don't divide by sexual orientation, we don't divide by ethnicity, we don't divide by religion. We unite. My opponent referred to this recall as a move to take over California by white supremacists. Do I look like a white supremacist?"

Elder noted that Newsom spent roughly 700 percent more on the recall election than he did, but complained that he was also "running against a media that served as the public relations bureau of the left, and we still scared the bejeezus out of them."

"We may have lost the battle, but we sure as hell are going to win the war," Elder said toward the end of his concession speech, before referring to himself as a "former radio host." To those wondering what he'll do next: "Stay tuned," he said.

Larry Elder
Gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder speaks to supporters at an election night event on September 14, 2021 in Costa Mesa, California. Elder lost to Governor Gavin Newsom. Getty