Larry Elder to Attend Fundraiser Instead of First GOP California Recall Debate

Conservative radio host Larry Elder, a candidate for California governor, will not attend the first gubernatorial recall debate scheduled for August 4.

Though a July 22 press release announcing the debate identified Elder as a participant, his campaign told Newsweek that Elder had already agreed to attend a fundraiser in Bakersfield before the debate date was set.

The fundraiser is being organized by Shannon Grove, a Republican state senator and former leader of the California Senate Republican Caucus, according to Elder's campaign.

In addition to Elder's scheduling conflict, his campaign questioned the need for a debate solely among Republican candidates heading into an election aimed at removing California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, from office.

"It makes no sense to have a circular firing squad among GOP contenders, where the only one who benefits is Gavin Newsom," said Ying Ma, communications director for Elder's campaign.

Larry Elder recall debate
California gubernatorial recall candidate Larry Elder will not participate in the first recall debate on August 4, according to his campaign. Above, Elder attends the "Death of A Nation" premiere at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on July 31, 2018, in Los Angeles. Greg Doherty/Getty Images

"Larry would be happy to debate—Gavin Newsom," Ma added. "He and voters across the state know that the real issues in this campaign are rampant crime, rising homelessness, out-of-control cost of living, and the dictatorial, anti-science way Newsom locked down California during the pandemic."

The August 4 debate is set to be the first among gubernatorial recall candidates, with a possible second debate tentatively set for August 22. The first debate will be hosted by The Richard Nixon Foundation at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

The foundation announced the debate last week. At the time, the Nixon Foundation identified Elder as one of five Republican gubernatorial recall candidates set to participate. Also listed as participants were: businessman John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, state lawmaker Kevin Kiley and former Congressman Doug Ose.

Newsom was asked to participate but did not respond to the foundation's invitation, debate organizers told Newsweek.

Elder is one of 46 candidates who qualified to challenge Newsom in the upcoming September 14 recall election. If more than 50 percent of California voters cast their ballots in favor of removing Newsom from office, he will be replaced by the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes.

According to recent polling, California voters are split on whether they want to remove Newsom ahead of the official end of his first term as governor. A poll released last week by Emerson College and Inside California Politics found 48 percent of polled voters wanted Newsom to stay in office, while 43 percent said they wanted him recalled.

Elder was the leading recall candidate among polled voters in the Emerson College poll, with 16 percent of respondents saying they would support him in the recall election. Cox and Faulconer were tied for second, with each candidate polling at 6 percent.

Newsweek reached out to The Richard Nixon Foundation for comment and will update this article with any response.