In an hour-long interview, Newsom recall candidate Larry Elder discussed his libertarian policies and why he won’t debate other Republicans.

“The Sage from South Central.” “Even more extreme than Trump.” The recall candidate to beat.

Larry Elder goes by a lot of labels these days. If he’s tough to pin down, that’s because he’s such an unlikely character: A Black man who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, went to an Ivy League college and became a conservative provocateur. 

In a state dominated by Democrats for 15 years, he’d make an even more unlikely governor. As millions of Californains suss out what they’re supposed to think about him as they vote in the Sept. 14 recall election, Elder sat down with CalMatters reporters and editors for an hour-long interview.

This conversation took place before Politico reported Thursday on allegations from Elder’s ex-fiancee that he brandished a gun at her while high on marijuana. Elder denied that he waved a weapon, but did not respond to other allegations: “I am not going to dignify this with a response — it’s beneath me.”

CalMatters has invited Gov. Gavin Newsom and his major challengers to sit down and chat. Here are five highlights from the discussion with Elder:

‘I don’t have horns. I don’t have a tail.’

Elder is especially clear on this point: He thinks he’s gotten a raw deal from the “left-wing media” since he announced his campaign last month.

“I don’t have a tail, I don’t have horns,” he said, before noting that he also doesn’t “club baby seals and eat their heads.” While his views on labor policygender equality and race have been characterized by the Newsom camp and even some fellow Republicans as extreme, Elder says they’re rooted in common sense and Economics 101.

In the latest in a string of stories unearthing past controversial comments, both CNN and the San Francisco Chronicle published articles Thursday documenting what he has said about women.

He also mentioned that he’s written books and made documentaries. Despite their commercial success, he claims, they’ve been skimmed over by the arbiters of merit and taste — newspaper book reviewers and the Oscars.

“It’s just surprising that I’ve been shut out like this,” he said. “I’m from the ‘hood. I ought to be a success story.”

Not that depicting himself as a media target and picking fights with fault-finding reporters doesn’t have its political upside. Just ask Donald Trump. For Elder’s supporters and many recall voters, the disapproval of the chattering classes may serve as its own endorsement. 

‘I am a small-L libertarian’

That’s the term Elder uses to describe his policy platform. It’s a consistent line and one that he’s been repeating for as long as he’s been a public figure. 

“The biggest challenge in California in general is the intrusiveness of government,” he said. “I believe that a government that governs less governs best.”

Hence his views on the minimum wage (there shouldn’t be one), pregnancy discrimination prohibitions in the workplace (leave it to the market), public welfare programs (it encourages “women to marry the government”), public schools (he prefers school vouchers), state-funded health insurance programs (“you need to have competition”) and recreational drugs (he supports legalization).

‘The only person I want to debate is Gavin Newsom’

Longtime conservative talk radio listeners and Fox News aficionados will know Elder by his more than 20 years of public opinionating. But for many California voters, he remains relatively unknown.

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