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In California, Republicans Struggle to Expand the Recall’s Appeal

The other California — the one of megachurches in the sprawl of the irrigated desert, Trump boat parades and a would-be secessionist enclave near the Oregon border that calls itself the “State of Jefferson” — occasionally finds common cause with moderates and independents to shake up state politics.

But Mr. Kessler said that a major difference between today and 2003, when Mr. Schwarzenegger replaced Mr. Davis in the last recall, was that the Republican Party lacked a candidate with crossover appeal. Success, he said, would depend on a candidate “who gives you an alternative to the Democrat without having to embrace another party exactly.”

That is not Larry Elder, the Republican front-runner in the recall race.

A talk radio host, Mr. Elder comes from the tradition of California conservatives whose appeal was that they refused to appeal to liberals. The list includes Los Angeles-born Andrew Breitbart, the conservative writer and activist who founded Breitbart News, and Mr. Miller, who is the former architect of Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration agenda and who grew up in Santa Monica listening to Mr. Elder’s show.

At times, Elder campaign events have felt not all that different from Trump rallies.

At a Labor Day rally in the suburb of Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles outside downtown Los Angeles in Ventura County, Mr. Elder drew boos from the crowd when he mentioned The Los Angeles Times, and laughter when he said he intended to “speak slowly” because CNN was there. He dropped the kind of bombs that made him a national name in conservative talk radio, winning applause from of his mostly white audience.

“What they’re afraid of,” Mr. Elder said, referring to his Democratic opponents, “is Larry Elder from the hood who went to a public school will be able to make the case to Black and brown people: ‘You are being betrayed. You are being used. You are being manipulated.’”

“Racism has never been less significant in America,” added Mr. Elder, who is Black.

Shelley Merrell, who runs a fire safety company in Ventura, nodded along as Mr. Elder called systemic racism “a lie” and rattled off statistics about police officers killing unarmed white people in larger numbers than they did Black people. Ms. Merrell, who is white, said that her support for the recall was rooted in her belief that California had become too inhospitable to businesses.

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