COSTA MESA, Calif. — The chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County endorsed Larry Elder Monday night, potentially opening new fundraising streams for the front-runner.
Elder addressed a cheering crowd at the Hilton of Orange County in Costa Mesa. Some attendees wore “Trump 2024” shirts and waved large cardboard cutouts of the conservative radio personality's head.
The meeting, which convened the OC GOP central committee, began with the Lord's Prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Fred Whitaker, chairman of the OC GOP, introduced Elder and made his endorsement. The party has been reluctant to get behind a single candidate and, instead, has focused its attention on turning out Republicans to vote for a recall, regardless of who would replace Gov. Gavin Newsom.
On Tuesday, Elder received the endorsement of fellow conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, and he recently secured the endorsement of the Orange County Register.
In the ballroom at the Hilton, the audience rippled with excitement.
"Larry cares about this party," Whitaker said. "He cares about the recall.”
Whitaker also announced the endorsements of Rep. Michelle Steel (R-48) and her husband, noted fundraiser Shawn Steel. Both were in attendance.
When Elder took the microphone, he went over much of his small-government platform, sometimes talking through applause to rapidly deliver his remarks. He talked about his upbringing and his father, who worked two jobs, extolling the virtues of hard work and perseverance.
Elder repeated his position that systemic racism doesn’t exist and that parents should have more choice of where to send their kids to school. He also addressed COVID-19 vaccines.
"I’m not anti-vaccine," he said. "I’ve been vaccinated. However, there are many people who feel differently. Isn’t this America?"
Elder said people shouldn't be forced to get vaccinations, following up on a promise made previously to eliminate mask mandates if elected.
The recent endorsement will likely help Elder’s already robust fundraising efforts. He quickly raised $4.5 million in his first 19 days in the race and is poised to haul in more.
Elder didn't attend the recent Republican debate featuring his primary rivals: Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and John Cox. The fourth, Doug Ose, dropped out of the race Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. All the candidates have avoided criticizing each other, instead focusing on Newsom, their shared adversary.
Recent polling data has shown that Republicans have a puncher’s chance, indicating that people who identified themselves as likely to vote were nearly split on recalling the governor.
After the speech, the majority of the audience left before the remainder of the central committee business could be completed. A group of young Republicans awaited Elder to the side of the stage, where he mingled and took photos before being hustled out by his security.
Milling around after the speech, Darlene Sky, vice president of the Pat Nixon Republican Women Federated group, was beaming.
“Larry Elder is the most progressive, insightful, inspirational leader that we need right now,” she said.
Elder is expected to continue his campaigning in Orange County on Saturday with a fundraising event.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the Republican Party of Orange County endorsed Larry Elder. It was the party chairman who made his endorsement. The error has been corrected (Aug. 18, 2021).