California Republican gubernatorial front-runner Larry Elder drew bipartisan criticism this week over controversial remarks about women, including his belief that employers should be able to ask women if and when they plan to get pregnant.
Elder, a conservative radio talk-show host vying to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in next month’s recall election, first expressed his opinion on pregnancy in the workplace in a 2002 book, arguing that pregnant employees could increase costs for businesses that are just getting off the ground.
He defended his view on Wednesday after receiving criticism from former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, one of his GOP rivals in the recall election.
“I believe... government should not be intruding into the relationship between employer and employee,” Elder said at a news conference Wednesday.
Federal and state laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on pregnancy, including when it comes to hiring, firing and promotions.
Faulconer has struggled to gain traction in the crowded race of 47 candidates. Like the other major GOP contenders, he has been critical of Newsom and his handling of crime, homelessness and COVID-19 restrictions. But this week’s shots at Elder were his first directed at a fellow recall candidate.
“Every undecided voter — pay attention,” Faulconer tweeted Wednesday in response to Elder’s news conference. “These are not California values. These are not Republican, Democrat or independent values. Larry Elder is doubling down on his attacks on working women and California families.”
Newsom has been equally critical of Elder, warning voters earlier this week that he would be to “the right of Donald Trump” if elected governor. At stake in the recall is not only a governorship, Newsom alluded, but potentially a future U.S. Senate seat.
“Larry Elder is running away with this other side,” Newsom said at an event in San Francisco, urging supporters to return their mail-in ballots and vote no on the recall.
A quirk in the rules governing the Sept. 14 recall election could lead to a Republican governor in one of the nation’s bluest states. Although recall supporters must win 51% of the vote in order to trigger Newsom’s ouster, a Republican could replace Newsom with simply a plurality of the vote. That makes voter turnout extremely important to both Newsom and his opponents.