By Michael R. Blood
Republican Caitlyn Jenner said Friday she will run for governor of California, injecting a jolt of celebrity into an emerging campaign that threatens to oust Democratic Gov. 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.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom 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.”
The 71-year-old celebrity activist described herself as “economically conservative, socially progressive” in a People magazine interview last year.
She immediately stands out in an emerging 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.
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 Newsom should be removed from office. The second would be a list of replacement candidates to choose from, if more than 50% of voters support removing Newsom from office.
The effort largely has been fueled by criticism of Newsom’s handling of the pandemic.
Other Republicans who have announced their intention to run include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the 2018 governor’s race.
Jenner made headlines in recent years with her ties to former President Donald Trump, who remains broadly unpopular in California outside his GOP base. Trump lost the heavily Democratic state to Joe Biden in November by over 5 million votes.
Jenner supported Trump in 2016 but later criticized his administration’s reversal of a directive on transgender access to public school bathrooms. She also criticized Trump after he said transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.