Conservative talk show host Larry Elder was reinstated Wednesday in the eleventh hour California gubernatorial recall election after a judge found he had complied with polling requirements and the chief of state elections should never have required candidates to provide five years of tax returns.
At issue, the tax returns that Elder had submitted to California election officials in his attempt to replace Governor Gavin Newsom. Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office said documents shared by Elder were incorrectly redacted. Elder went to court to retaliate, and his case landed before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie Earl just hours before Weber was set to certify the final list of candidates.
Elder brings the provisional total of recall candidates to 43.
In addition to deciding that Weber should place Elder on dismissal ballots, Earl also rejected Weber’s conclusion that candidates for dismissal are covered by the state law of 2019 requiring candidates for gubernatorial post when they are ‘a “direct primary election” to publish tax returns.
“I didn’t find that Mr. Elder was required to file tax returns at all,” Earl said.
The upcoming recall election is a special competition, not a direct primary. Nonetheless, Weber determined that the law should apply this time around because it was intended to allow the public to vet gubernatorial candidates. It’s a similar interpretation that Newsom’s campaign team pushed in May when it gave reporters 90 minutes to review the governor’s 2019 tax returns.
It was not immediately clear whether the move would result in the reinstatement of additional candidates, nor whether Weber’s office said he would have to respond later when asked how many of the recall candidates were blocked solely by their no. -compliance with the tax declaration requirement.
While Elder was one of the last Republican contenders to embark on Newsom’s recall race, he quickly gained national attention and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. This good start demonstrated his pre-existing base and broad name recognition, but Elder risked having to pay back the money if he got stuck in the ballot.
Dozens of candidates will be on the ballot when California voters decide Newsom’s fate on September 14 and via mail-in ballots the month before. Top Republican candidates include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, 2018 Newsom businessman and opponent John Cox, former Rep. Doug Ose, former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and member of the Kevin Kiley Assembly.
Voters will be asked two questions: whether to recall Newsom and who should replace him. If a majority chooses to keep Newsom on the first question, the result of the second question becomes moot.
Elder’s trial was not the only last-minute legal skirmish over the ballot. Faulconer also went to court to have his official designation on the ballot be “retired mayor of San Diego” after Weber’s office rejected his request to be labeled “former mayor of San Diego.” The court dismissed Faulconer on Wednesday.