By Dan Merica, CNN
Republican candidate Larry Elder told reporters on Wednesday that he believes “there might very well be shenanigans” in the election to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, continuing the baseless GOP effort to undermine elections by suggesting wrongdoing.
Elder, the leading Republican candidate to replace Newsom if the recall is successful, made the comments shortly after he voted for himself in Los Angeles County. He said he believes the “shenanigans” would be similar to those that happened during the 2020 election, in which President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump. There was no evidence of widespread election fraud in that election.
“What I believe is that no matter what they do — and I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election — no matter what they do, so many Californians are angry about what’s going on” that he will win anyway, Elder said, citing anger around crime, homelessness and quality of public education.
More than 6 million ballots have been cast as of Wednesday in the California recall election, according to the election tracking firm Political Data Inc. The firm said Wednesday that 53% of the 6.4 million ballots returned so far have come from Democrats, while Republicans have returned 25% of the ballots. Republican operatives believe their supporters, in part because of attacks on mail-in voting around the 2020 election, will be more likely to vote in person.
Elder — echoing claims made by Trump during and after the 2020 election, as well as comments about the California race from right-wing media — has started to question the possible election results, telling supporters that his campaign is ready and willing to file lawsuits and pointing them to a campaign website portal that allows people to report possible issues.
“We have a voter integrity board all set up – most of these are lawyers,” Elder said Wednesday. “So, when people hear things, they contact us. We’re going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion.”
Unsubstantiated claims of the 2020 election being stolen have become one of the most prevalent talking points among Republicans in the wake of Trump’s loss, spurred by the former President and many of his biggest supporters.
Trump himself went on Newsmax, a right-wing outlet that has propagated election lies, to baselessly claim the California election is “probably rigged.”
Elder is cribbing the former President’s strategy by beginning to question the legitimacy of an election before the race has been decided.
“The 2020 election, in my opinion, was full of shenanigans,” Elder said this weekend on Fox News, another outlet that has helped spread falsehoods about election integrity. “And my fear is they’re going to try that in this election right here and recall.”
Elder had previously said that Biden won the 2020 election “fairly and squarely.” But after Trump supporters jumped on the comments, Elder tweeted last month, “Do I believe there were shenanigans in the 2020 presidential election? Yes. But it’s time to focus on retaking the White House in 2024.”
Polls show Newsom in a more solid position than he was a few weeks ago. The latest polling from the Public Policy Institute of California found 58% of likely voters plan to vote “no” on recalling Newsom, with 39% saying they will vote “yes.”
Newsom said on Wednesday that the recall had national consequences.
“We’re living in a moment in time where we’re debating democracy. We’re actually, literally, debating democracy in this country,” he said during an appearance with Vice President Kamala Harris.
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