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California Christian Nationalists Behind Effort to Install Larry Elder as Governor

A group of Christian nationalist and dominionist pastors in California have declared their intention in recent years to transform the state by turning out enough conservative evangelical voters. They weren’t terribly successful in 2016 or 2020, as California voters rejected Donald Trump by massive margins, but they did help Republicans flip some congressional seats, including one taken last year by Rep. Young Kim, an ally of Christian nationalist political operative David Lane.

Now those same religious-right leaders have rallied around an effort to recall the state’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom, and many are backing the campaign of right-wing radio host Larry Elder.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JULY 31: Radio Talk Show Host Larry Elder attends the “Death Of A Nation” Premiere at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on July 31, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

These extremists see the recall election as a chance to install an ally as Governor. Ché Ahn, a Pasadena, California-based leader of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation, is among those encouraging evangelicals to vote for the recall. On Jan. 5, the day before the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, Ahn spoke at a rally designed to fire up Trump’s supporters. Ahn told rallygoers that the election was stolen but that Trump would remain in office. “We’re gonna rule and reign through President Trump and under the lordship of Jesus Christ,” he declared. A month later, Ahn urged members of his congregation to sign a petition to recall Newsom.

Ahn resisted California’s COVID-19-related restrictions on church gatherings and won a legal judgment against the governor. But he didn’t stop there. On Thursday night, Ahn co-hosted a town hall with Elder sponsored by another Trump-promoting pastor, Samuel Rodriguez, and his National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Rodriguez claimed that Newsom’s policies are “anti-Latino” and “anti-people of faith.”

Online propagandist Dennis Prager, another participant in Christian nationalist organizing events in California, was among those who urged Elder to run for governor. National religious-right political and media figures are also promoting the recall and Elder’s candidacy, including Elder’s fellow radio show host Eric Metaxas. Metaxas called Elder California’s “next governor” in an August 4th interview. Metaxas, who said “we are fighting against really dark forces,” pronounced himself “thrilled” about Elder’s candidacy.

The special election will be held September 14th, with many voters already having cast their ballots. Recent polling suggests that the effort to recall Newsom is likely to fail, but Elder is leading the field of potential replacements if the recall were to be successful.



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