Elder Bombshell Rocks California Retreat
Without a major celebrity running to unseat California Governor Gavin Newsom, this year’s retirement could not measure up to the showbiz carnival of 2003 when Hollywood action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger dethroned the unpopular incumbent Governor, Gray Davis. , already a varied cast of 135 characters as well. on the ballot.
But the last 24 hours have unleashed a strange and bumpy ride that could change the trajectory of the 2021 race in its final weeks.
On Thursday, just hours before the third Republican retirement debate, an explosive story broke out about Larry Elder, the conservative talk show host and favorite of the Republican Party to replace Newsom.
Since entering the race over a month ago, Elder has skyrocketed ahead of the rest of the group. He has achieved a double-digit lead with his bold denunciations of the state’s liberal policies and COVID mandates; Although most Californians don’t know much about him, he declined to participate in the discussions and has only held two press conferences. During one of them, he strangely answered questions only from the Asian media.
To put it mildly, the latest twist is amazing. Alexandra Datig, Elder’s ex-fiancee and former producer of his radio show, came forward with impressive accusations against him. He said he broke his 18-month engagement to the libertarian media personality in 2015 after an argument when he said Elder pulled a .45 pistol from his nightstand.
“And he checked to see if it was loaded, while I was talking,” Datig said. Political, accusing Elder of being high on marijuana at the time. “He wanted to make sure I saw that he had it.”
“It was an act of silent contempt and anger,” he added.
There were several other disturbing elements to the story. Datig, 51, a conservative blogger and political commentator supporting Elder’s rival, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, went public in the 1990s when he was an informant in the indictment of Hollywood Mrs. Heidi Fleiss. She described being paid $ 10,000 a day while working as a prostitute in the Fleiss network and has spoken out about human trafficking ever since. But she said her past didn’t stop Elder from pressuring her to get a “Larry’s Girl” tattoo on her lower back, a large portrait of which she said she later hung at her home for visitors. see.
Datig recalled meeting Elder in the early 2000s at parties at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, events frequented by Hollywood celebrities, including rapper Snoop Dogg, although she and Elder didn’t start dating until years later. Datig also provided a home video to Politico in which Elder complains about being snubbed by Snoop Dogg.
“I introduced him to the weed. … I taught him everything he knows. … I am the one who made him what he is. I can’t believe he turned his back on me, m ———– ”, the old man is quoted as saying.
Hours after the story was posted online, the candidate issued a blanket denial, calling the story “salacious accusations.”
“I have never brandished a gun at anyone,” he said. tweeted. “I grew up in South Central [Los Angeles]; I know exactly how destructive this kind of behavior is. It’s not me, and everyone who knows me knows it’s not me.
“People do not enter public life precisely because of these kinds of policies of personal destruction. I am not going to dignify this with an answer, it is below me. “
Elder also accused Newsom’s campaign of trying to keep “voters distracted” and vowed to “stay focused on the issues that inspired 1.7 million Californians to request this recall.”
The story sent shockwaves across the California political landscape, with consultants from across the ideological spectrum predicting it would rapidly erode support for Elder’s Republican Party. Most believed it would also benefit Newsom by casting doubt on the Republican leader who would replace him and an impeachment process that allowed a candidate without scrutiny to threaten his retention in office.
“@GavinNewsom has certainly created a lot of its own problems, but it has also had some really bad breakups. Larry Elder is not one of them. Larry Elder continues the early Christmas, ”tweeted Rob Stutzman, who served as deputy chief of staff for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the winner of the 2003 retreat.
Democrats reacted with glee to the explosive news.
“Larry Elder is the gift he continues to give for all the scandalous things he has said [as a talk show host], and now this, ”Garry South, a longtime Democratic strategist, told RealClearPolitics on Thursday afternoon. “There is a reason why he has been rejecting most of the media interviews. There’s a reason he skips all the debates. “
Newsom in recent weeks has focused his fire on Elder as the race has gotten stronger. He attacked his main Republican rival as “to the right of Donald Trump” and ticked off a list of Elder’s positions that he claimed are out of sync with California voters, including opposition to minimum wage increases and the prohibition of assault weapons. like past skepticism about climate change and support for offshore drilling.
After the story hit social media, political consultants from both sides of the retreat braced for a lively debate Thursday night. Three Republican gubernatorial opponents, Faulconer, businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, squared off in a debate sponsored by KTLA, a California television station. Elder and Caitlin Jenner declined to appear while Newsom did not respond to the invitation.
But there were no verbal jousts between the candidates, as the hosts stuck to a quick questioning of each candidate on the usual topics of homelessness, climate change, wildfires and immigration. Only one big moment stood out: When KTLA news anchor Frank Buckley lobbied the trio on whether they would vote for Trump if he were the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. Only Cox said he would if Biden were the only alternative, while Faulconer and Kiley refused to participate in the hypothetical.
The event ended up being fairly uneventful with the moderators asking no questions about the Elder bomb and the three candidates avoiding the opportunity to attack the frontrunner over the accusations or anything else.
Still, both Kiley and Faulconer issued written statements regarding Datig’s charges. Kiley said he found the allegations “very disturbing,” saying that Datig deserves to be heard and that his “deeply disturbing account must be treated with the utmost seriousness.” Still, he added, the elder must also have “every opportunity to respond.”
Faulconer, who has the most Republican institutional support but has struggled to leave the group, was much more critical, arguing that the allegations are further proof that Elder “does not have the judgment or character to lead our state.”
In recent days, Newsom and Faulconer have criticized Elder for a 2000 column he wrote in which he cited a study from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania that found that women knew less than men when it came to campaign finance, gun control, foreign policy, defense and questions about the positions of the men. political candidates.
“Women know less than men about political, economic and current events,” Elder wrote. “Good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. The less you know, the easier it will be to manipulate. “
Elder vigorously defended himself against the attacks, arguing that his opponents and journalists were misquoting the essay. He directed reporters to Annenberg’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who had stated in the column that women were less informed than men at the time because they tended to get the news from local television.
“Watching the local news makes you dumber,” said Hall Jamieson, who now serves as director of the Annenberg Center for Public Policy, in Elder’s column.
In a debate earlier this week, the generally mild-mannered Faulconer criticized Elder’s comments about women, labeling them “bulls …”.
On Thursday, Faulconer said that Datig’s allegations should be the last straw for Elder’s candidacy: “[Elder’s] The writings and statements are attacks on working women and all California families. Yesterday, he doubled down on these views and now we are hearing reports about his personal behavior. We cannot have him as our governor. “
California’s political class is convinced the allegations will at least slow the rise of Elder planes. But it’s hard to say if they pulled him out of the race entirely. In the MeToo era, sentiments have certainly changed since California voters ignored a news flash during the 2003 recall in which several women said that Schwarzenegger he groped and humiliated them. With the resignation of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week over his treatment of women, Republicans would do well to try to avoid a downsizing of the West Coast.
But California Republican voters have not raved about any other candidate in the field and may be skeptical of last-minute libelous accusations unless there is strong evidence.
South pointed out how difficult it was to anger voters enough to vote against Schwarzenegger in 2003, even when a 1981 video surfaced in which the actor explained to Johnny Carson how he and a friend purposely damaged the chimneys of Schwarzenegger. people at night, and then ask the owners. for payment of repairs the next day.
But nothing seemed to matter at the time, much to the frustration of the Davis team.
“They always let him go,” South recalled. “They said, ‘Well, you know, he’s a celebrity and he’s an actor … blah blah blah.’ … we would show [the video] people in the focus groups and they would laugh. They just thought it was fun. ”
With the stakes at stake, however, South predicts a “trickle, trickle, trickle” post of negative Elder stories between now and the Sept. 14 deadline to turn in ballots.
“And it all benefits Newsom,” he said.
It’s a logical conclusion, but so far this retreat has defied all conventional wisdom. It’s similar to 2003 only in this way: being completely unpredictable.
Susan Crabtree is a National and White House Political Correspondent for RealClearPolitics.