LOS ANGELES — Campaigning together on Monday, President Biden and Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated California, the country’s most diverse state, as a potent example of multiracial democracy in action.
On the other side of the aisle, issues of race and diversity are similarly at the core of the message being put before voters by Larry Elder, the Republican radio host who is the leading contender to replace Mr. Newsom.
His message is that the United States long ago vanquished racism.
Mr. Elder’s choice of a campaign stop on Monday in Monterey Park, a city in eastern Los Angeles County that is predominantly Asian American and has a sizable Latino population, seemed intended to celebrate diversity. But Mr. Elder, who is Black, also used the visit to argue that systemic racism, which he has called a “lie,” does not exist in America anymore.
“No matter what language we speak, what color we share, even what political stripe we brag about,” Betty Chu, the former mayor of Monterey Park, told Mr. Elder’s supporters, “If it’s an ‘R,’ a ‘D,’ or ‘decline to state,’ the city long stood for anti-hate and bringing people together.”
Ms. Chu said that Mr. Elder’s success as a columnist and radio host, and the fact that he attended public schools and rose to prominence from South Central Los Angeles, were proof “that skin color doesn’t hold you back.”
For many of Mr. Elder’s supporters, especially conservative white voters who say they are tired of hearing about systemic racism after last year’s social unrest following the murder of George Floyd, that message is resonant.
Stacy Hallum, 47, a supporter of Mr. Elder’s who attended his rally on Monday, said she loved the diversity of where she lives, but said that “just because we’re white, we matter too.”
She continued: “I’m so tired of the racism thing. We’re done with racism. I’m not privileged, let me tell you.”
Mr. Elder has often sought to seize on issues of race, describing his policies as ones that will benefit people of color.
On the issue of private versus public education, he has attacked Democrats like Mr. Newsom for sending their children to private school while opposing charter schools and other forms of private or semiprivate education. Mr. Elder said such moves leave public schools to fail their Black and brown students.
“So what they’re afraid of is Larry Elder, from the hood, who attended a public school, is going to break that stranglehold Democrats have over Black and brown parents, specifically over the issue of school choice,” he said at the rally on Monday.