Caitlyn Jenner says she will run for governor of California

23 April 2021, 17:14

Caitlyn Jenner
Channel 4 Dispatches programme. Picture: PA

Democratic governor Gavin Newsom is facing a likely recall election this year.

Republican Caitlyn Jenner has said she will run for governor of California, injecting a jolt of celebrity into an emerging campaign that threatens to oust Democratic governor Gavin Newsom from office.

Jenner – an Olympic hero, reality TV personality and a transgender rights activist – said in statement posted on Twitter and on an accompanying website that she has filed initial paperwork to run for the post.

Mr Newsom, a first-term Democrat, is facing a likely recall election this year, though election officials are still reviewing petition signatures required to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Several other Republicans have also announced plans to run.

In a statement, Jenner called herself “a proven winner” and the only candidate “who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as governor”.

“I’m in,” she wrote on her website.

“For the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people. Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision.”

The 71-year-old celebrity activist immediately stands out in a growing field that so far has failed to attract a nationally known contender.

However, Jenner is untested as a candidate and little is known about her positions on critical issues facing the state, from the coronavirus pandemic to managing the economy.

She described herself as “economically conservative, socially progressive” in a People magazine interview last year.

Her run would come nearly two decades after the ascendancy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Republican who used his Hollywood fame as a springboard to California’s highest office in a 2003 recall election.

If the recall qualifies for the ballot, as expected, voters would be asked two questions: first, whether Mr Newsom should be removed from office.

California governor Gavin Newsom
California governor Gavin Newsom (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

The second would be a list of replacement candidates to choose from, if more than 50% of voters support removing Mr Newsom from office.

The effort has largely been fuelled by criticism of Mr Newsom’s handling of the pandemic, which shuttered schools and closed thousands of businesses.

Other Republicans who have announced their intention to run include former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, former US Representative Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, who lost to Mr Newsom in the 2018 governor’s race.

If the recall qualifies, Mr Newsom would be forced to fend off rivals in the midst of a pandemic that has cost the state millions of jobs, cored government budgets and upended life for nearly 40 million residents.

He has also been hit by the fallout from a multibillion-dollar fraud scandal at the state unemployment agency while weathering a public shaming for dining out with friends and lobbyists at an exclusive San Francisco Bay Area restaurant last autumn, while telling residents to stay home for safety.

However, recent polling has suggested Mr Newsom would hold his seat, and the sour public mood could shift as more schools and businesses reopen.

California is also likely to be the recipient of billions of dollars of federal recovery funds, which Mr Newsom will dispense and could use to his political advantage.

Jenner made headlines in recent years with her ties to former president Donald Trump, who remains broadly unpopular in California outside his Republican base.

Caitlyn Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner says she is economically conservative aand socially progressive (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Mr Trump lost the heavily Democratic state to Joe Biden in November by more than five million votes.

Jenner supported Mr Trump in 2016 but later criticised his administration’s reversal of a directive on transgender access to public school toilets.

She also criticised Mr Trump after he said transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the US military.

By Press Association