South LA

South L.A. reacts to California recall election results and GOP frontrunner Larry Elder

Locals respond to the politician who grew up in their South L.A. community.

"A photo of Larry Elder shaking hands with a supporter in Los Angeles."

Larry Elder calls himself “the Sage from South Central,” but polling results suggest Elder’s campaign never took hold in the South Los Angeles community he calls home.

Voters throughout the area rejected the recall outright, with 80-90 percent voting against booting Gov. Gavin Newsom from office.

The recall, backed largely by Republicans critical of Newsom’s handling of immigration and the pandemic, failed, but it did produce a GOP frontrunner in Elder, a native Angeleno. As the leading candidate to replace Newsom, the conservative talk show radio host would have become California’s first Black governor.

During the recall election, SCOPE Agenda Action Fund (AFF) took part in reaching out to voters about local and statewide measures with a direct impact on communities like South L.A. SCOPE AFF is a 6-year-old entity born out of the South L.A.-based grassroots organization, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and is focused on engaging voters in historically disenfranchised communities. While mobilizing voters, SCOPE AFF did not endorse a specific candidate, but they were against the recall.

Siboney Arias, communications associate for SCOPE AAF, shared that their voting campaign was meant to spread their organization’s overarching “progressive vision” with locals.

“We need to protect ourselves. We need to protect our community. We need to protect our livelihoods,” Arias said. “And a vote of ‘no’ on the recall means continuing our protection and continuing to work towards a progressive future.”

Bryan Minor works alongside Arias as the integrated voter engagement coordinator at SCOPE AFF to engage voters in South L.A. His team visited various neighborhoods, going door-to-door to encourage getting out the vote.

“I would say it was less about the candidates,” Minor said. “It was more so about protecting the resources in our communities, protecting people’s livelihoods, their rent moratorium, the assistance, debt forgiveness, health and safety protocols.”

While some South L.A. residents, like Arias and Minor, looked to the future for answers to the recall election, others were more focused on Elder’s bid to replace Newsom.

Najee Ali, a former friend and colleague of Elder, is a prominent social and political activist in South L.A. He believes Elder is an “outsider” to the community.

“He’s not part of South Central,” Ali said. “He’s not welcome in South Central. He knows he can’t set foot in South Central and come home anymore based on his betrayal to Black people in the community, which he was raised in.”

Elder did find supporters in South L.A., including Rolin Isaacs, a business owner who, like Elder, was born and raised in L.A.

Isaacs, whose family runs a real-estate business, called Elder’s vision for the California housing market “forward-thinking.” He cited Elder’s plan to identify federally-owned lands that could be designated for more easily affordable homes.

“That’s the number one reason why people are leaving California, because they can’t find a decent price for a home that they want to live in,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs also expressed that he plans to support Elder if he runs for governor again in 2022. He said current politicians are not taking enough action to change policies.

“We need somebody with some fresh ideas, because all we are getting is the same old ideas,” he said.

Elder also gained support from young voters. The weekend before the recall election, the USC College Republicans worked alongside other college Republicans to support the San Bernardino GOP campaign for Elder.

Marin Ruiz, the chair of USC College Republicans, expected to go door knocking and encourage voters to choose Elder, when Elder showed up in person for a visit with her and her team.

“It was such a surprise. We had no idea we were going to meet Larry Elder,” Ruiz said. “And so, sure enough, Sunday rolls around and him and his crew all show up and they do a little rally in front of the San Bernardino office.”

Ruiz said Elder’s plans for improving the quality of education resonated with her, stressing the importance of school choice and supporting small business owners. But Ruiz also believes that Elder failed to gain support from people of color because his political leanings “turn off” some voters, which she hopes the “new movement of the Republican Party” will change.

“I think there’s a really bad, tainted view of the Conservative Party of being this white superiority complex,” Ruiz said. “I think that with the rise of people like Larry Elder, like Candace Owens, like Rob Smith — all these really popular Black conservatives, I think it’ll take a few years for [support for the Republican party] to warm up.”

Multiple attempts were made to reach the South Los Angeles Inglewood Republican Assembly, but the organization did not respond in time for publication.

Whether or not South L.A. residents favor his views, Elder has already hinted at another run at the state’s top job.

“We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” he told his supporters in Costa Mesa at his election night party.

Numbers suggest burgeoning support for Elder among Republican voters. He received 48.4% of the total replacement vote, more than the top five Republican candidates combined.

“Stay tuned,” Elder said as he ended his concession speech.

As Elder continues his campaign, Minor believes that this “landslide” recall election showed South L.A. residents just how much their vote truly matters.

“I hope everybody realizes that voting does work and voting does help,” Minor said. “And that the voting is the power, and that’s where we get our power.”