Larry Elder steps up to lead GOP fundraiser, but Newsom continues to beat recall field

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Radio talk show host Larry Elder launched television commercials in southern California this week accusing Governor Gavin Newsom of acting “like a bully” during the pandemic. | Marcio José Sanchez / AP Photo

SACRAMENTO – Republicans vying to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election will have to overcome a huge fundraising chasm, but latecomer Larry Elder quickly edged out his GOP rivals, according to new campaign documents.

Elder, a longtime conservative talk show host, said he raised nearly $ 4.5 million in July after he declared his candidacy last month. In just a matter of weeks, his total eclipsed what his fellow Republicans had raised in months, and daily documents show Elder raised an additional $ 440,000 in the first days of August.

The highest Republican contenders have registered earnings of a few million, while Newsom has raised at least $ 45 million since the start of 2021. All in all, Republicans have cumulatively accumulated a fraction of Newsom’s stash, which allowed the governor to dominate the airwaves this summer and puts him in a position to continue airing ads statewide for the roughly five weeks leading up to the Sept. 14 election.

But Elder’s fundraising wave confirms he is now the top Republican among the replacement contenders. Recent polls have indicated the same, including a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies / Los Angeles Times poll last week that showed he had 18% support among likely voters.

Elder has garnered the endorsement of Republican clubs and conservative celebrities such as Chuck Norris, as he enjoys great notoriety – particularly in Southern California – after years of being on television, radio and in the print media as a columnist.

New campaign fundraising records show he had around $ 2.3 million for the home stretch as of July 31. Elder launched television commercials in southern California this week accusing Newsom of acting “like a bully” during the pandemic.

Elder provided a copy of his statement showing the first line numbers, but his campaign said his forms were not on the California Secretary of State’s website because the system was clogged by the deadline for Thursday evening. Likewise, Newsom’s forms did not appear accurately on Friday morning.

After Elder, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer led the GOP group, raising about $ 3.4 million between two campaign accounts and keeping about $ 1.2 million in cash. Much of that money came from longtime Republican donors in California, mirroring Faulconer’s call for establishing the state’s GOP.

Other Republicans had hundreds of thousands of fundraisers until the end of July.

Republican Assembly Member Kevin Kiley raised about $ 834,000 and had about $ 572,000 available. Businessman John Cox largely self-funded his campaign, donating millions of dollars to fund an introductory advertising blitz featuring a trained bear, and said he had about $ 700,000 between two accounts until the end of July.

Former GOP Rep Doug Ose had about $ 60,000 on hand. Equalization Board member Ted Gaines raised about $ 266,000 with about $ 149,000 left. Celebrity and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner brought in just $ 25,000 on hand until the end of July and over $ 150,000 in debt.

Newsom enjoys a singular advantage over its GOP rivals: Campaign finance rules allow the incumbent governor to raise unlimited amounts of money because state law addresses whether to oust Newsom as a matter of voting rather than a candidate race. This allowed Newsom to dominate the Republican field, drawing on a panoply of funders with deep pockets in the worlds of organized labor, Hollywood, technology, agriculture, Native American casinos and real estate.

Donors to Republican candidates cannot give more than $ 32,400, the limit for a round of gubernatorial elections. However, Republicans can open separate accounts to collect unlimited amounts if they use that money to campaign for Newsom’s recall rather than their own candidacy. Some candidates have opened such accounts but have not generated the money Newsom has available.

Statewide campaigns are extremely expensive in California given the size of the state and the fact that it encompasses multiple media markets. Newsom was able to run ads statewide. His campaign has so far concentrated most of its advertising purchases in Los Angeles, a gold mine populated by Democratic votes.

Republicans, on the other hand, have had to be more strategic with their money, buy time in specific markets, or target conservative heavyweight formats like talk radio and country music stations. Elder focused his spending on Los Angeles and San Diego, where he spent the longest time on the airwaves.

Republican voters are more committed to the recall than their Democratic counterparts, suggesting Newsom’s enemies could lead growing enthusiasm to a shaken victory. Newsom and its allies will be focusing heavily on training their base in the coming weeks through a combination of advertising, targeted communications and home visits.

Voters will be asked two questions: whether or not to recall Newsom, and who should replace him. If a majority of voters choose to keep Newsom on the first question, the outcome of the second becomes questionable.

If Newsom survived, he would head for a 2022 re-election cycle with a solid financial base. His gubernatorial re-election committee – which is separate from his recall account – had $ 23 million in the bank at the end of June and has since withdrawn at least $ 319,000 more.

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