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Larry Elder

Photo by Elder campaign

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The last time a Democratic governor faced a recall election in California, the Republican candidate prevailed. In October 2003, Californians voted to replace Democratic Gov. Gray Davis with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. But 18 years later, Gov. Gavin Newsom's main GOP challenger is someone much more controversial and divisive than the moderate Schwarzenegger: far-right radio host Larry Elder — and California Republicans, according to the conservative Washington Examiner, now fear that they may have blown a chance to unseat Newsom.

Rob Stutzman, a Sacramento-based Republican strategist who advised Schwarzenegger in 2003, told the Examiner, "Newsom has successfully framed the race as him versus Elder, and Democratic voters are responding by voting. Elder has no appeal outside of GOP voters."

The 69-year-old Elder is much different from Schwarzenegger, who leans conservative but isn't far-right. Schwarzenegger has been vehemently critical of former President Donald Trump, whereas Elder is an in-your-face Trump apologist in a state that Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden by 29 percent in the 2020 presidential election. Schwarzenegger, in contrast, had a lot more crossover appeal; many Democrats voted for him in 2003, and he was reelected in 2006. The Austria-born action film star turned politician is a textbook example of how a Republican can win a gubernatorial race in a deep blue state — not unlike Gov. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts or Gov. Phil Scott in Vermont.

Elder courts controversy. In July, Elder offended many people when, in July, he told right-wing pundit Candace Owens that arguably, former slaveowners were owed reparations after the Civil War because the federal government took their "property" away from them. But while "owning the liberals" and making outrageous comments can draw ratings in right-wing talk radio or on Fox News, it isn't a good strategy in a state as Democratic as California.

Larry Elder on reparations for slave owners and Candace Owens in complete agreement. Unbelievable! www.youtube.com

Regardless, Democratic organizers and strategists are leaving nothing to chance. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are among the major Democrats who have either visited California to campaign for Newsom or plan to do so.

The Examiner's David M. Drucker explains, "Earlier this summer, Democratic strategists who lived through the 2003 recall worried Newsom could be toppled despite California becoming a deeper shade of blue since then. Some believe this recall might have ended similarly if a centrist, such as former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, emerged as the consensus GOP contender. Elder's swift rise after entering the race late compared to the rest of the Republican field has them breathing a huge sigh of relief."

Conservative pundit Tim Miller, a Never Trumper and ex-Republican who supported Biden in 2020, views Elder as an extremist and believes that Republicans would have been much better off if Faulconer, not Elder, were the GOP frontrunner in the recall election. In a video posted on the conservative website The Bulwark earlier this week, Miller said of Faulconer, "He's a moderate Republican former mayor of San Diego. He wants to address climate change and supports citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Sounds like my kinda guy. But of course, he also voted for [Donald] Trump." And Miller slammed Elder as "basically a walking Boomer Facebook meme" who has "made countless crazy statements."

Tim Miller on WTF Is Going On With The California Recall www.youtube.com

California Republicans, according to Drucker, "claim Elder squandered opportunities to hobble Newsom when he was on the ropes." A California-based GOP consultant, presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity, believes that if Newsom survives the recall, Elder will be to blame.

That Republican told the Examiner, "Before Elder, the race was all about Gavin, and our polls were looking very good. If the election had been four or more weeks ago, we would have won."

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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