SACRAMENTO (INSIDE CALIFORNIA POLITICS) – An exclusive Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll reveals conservative talk radio host Larry Elder is leading the race to replace Governor Gavin Newsom if he is recalled by voters.

The exclusive new statewide poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, which has a margin of error of +/-2.9%, asked respondents who they would vote for to replace Gov. Newsom. Elder led the pack at 16%, with John Cox and Kevin Faulconer trailing behind both at 6%. A large majority of respondents remain undecided.

Which candidate would you vote for to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if he is recalled?
Larry Elder: 16%
John Cox: 6%
Kevin Faulconer: 6%
Kevin Kiley: 4%
Caitlyn Jenner: 4%
Kevin Paffrath: 2%
Someone else: 8%

Undecided: 53%

A Sacramento County judge on Wednesday ruled California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber must put Elder on the ballot as a candidate on the final certified list of candidates.

The decision comes after Elder, who just last week announced he was running in the recall election, said he was suing over a decision by California election officials to block him from running in the race, saying he’s the target of political “shenanigans” by Democrats.

Earlier this week, Elder said he filed all the necessary paperwork to qualify for a slot on the ballot, including over 300 pages of tax returns that are required to become a candidate. But Elder was not included on the preliminary list of 41 candidates running in the recall election.

“We’ve complied with everything the secretary of state has required of us,” said Elder, a popular voice on the political right whose show is nationally syndicated. “The politicians in Sacramento know I’m the only candidate who can beat Gavin Newsom. They are afraid, and they are using whatever shenanigans they can to try to trip me up. It won’t work.”

“Frankly, this action by the secretary of state is not simply unfair and absurd but a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent,” said Elder, who also is an attorney.

When Elder announced his candidacy last week, he immediately became one of the most recognized Republicans in the race, given his years on talk radio and frequent appearances on Fox News.

In a statement, Weber’s office said the agency applies the same criteria to each candidate that seeks elected office.

The list of candidates issued “did not include Mr. Elder and others that failed to comply with those requirements. This is the first election where the gubernatorial candidate tax-disclosure law has been applied.”

Elder’s campaign argued that under state law, Weber has the authority, if not the duty, to “fix” any redaction errors for the public. The campaign said Weber’s office has not informed Elder of its specific objections to the filing of his tax returns and added that Weber was “effectively engaging in voter suppression” by denying voters the ability to choose Elder.

The campaign also said Weber’s decision violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution because Newsom did not have to comply with the same tax return disclosures.

“I am waging a legal battle to run as the candidate for Californians who are tired of the partisanship and entrenched interests of Sacramento. I fully expect to be on the final certified list of candidates,” Elder said.

In the lawsuit, Elder raises the issue of whether the requirement for candidates to release their previous five years of taxes is legally valid. He points out the 2019 law on which it’s based applies to a “primary” election, but the secretary of state “unilaterally” imposed it on a recall election.

A statement from the secretary of state said the agency adopted the same approach as was used in the state’s 2003 recall election when the basic requirements for replacement candidate qualifications were based on those for primary elections.

“Neither the California Constitution nor the (state) elections code provide specific replacement candidate qualifications and requirements for gubernatorial recall elections,” the agency said.

With the election less than two months away, election officials already are arranging for ballots to be printed. Mail-in ballots go out next month.

Voters will be sent a ballot with two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And who should replace him? If more than half of voters say “yes” to the first question, then whoever on the list of potential replacements gets the most votes is the new governor of the nation’s most populous state.

The recall election is scheduled for Sept. 14.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.