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Former Trump administration official Richard Grenell is apparently considering a run for California governor, should a recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom succeed.
Grenell became the first openly gay person to hold a cabinet-level position after twice-impeached former president Donald Trump last year named him to be temporary acting director of national intelligence. Previously, Grenell had served as ambassador to Germany.
He frequently waded into debates over Trump and the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ actions, including claiming that the former president was “the strongest ally that gay Americans have ever had in the White House” — a statement that drew condemnation from LGBTQ organizations.
Now, Politico reports that Grenell is putting in motion a plan to run for California governor.
It comes amid efforts by Republicans in the state to recall Gov. Newsom, a Democrat, over conservative backlash to Newsom’s policies regarding COVID-19.
Grenell penned an op-ed for Fox News calling Newsom’s COVID-19 strategy “unabashed political opportunism” and alleging that Newsom makes decisions “that benefit him politically with no regard for science or the people of California’s physical, mental or economic health.”
The Republican National Committee has reportedly given $250,000 to the effort to recall Newsom, which is seeking the 1.5 million signatures necessary to add a recall to the ballot.
“Gov. Newsom’s authoritarian measures, blatant overreach and complete mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic have proven that he is woefully unqualified to lead the state of California,” Ronna McDaniel, chair of the RNC, said in a statement. “It is time the people use their constitutional recourse to remove him from power.”
Should the initiative succeed, Grenell will throw his hat into the ring for the inevitable run-off election for governor once the recall effort successfully reaches the ballot, according to one of Politico‘s sources.
Another source, a Republican strategist, told Politico that Grenell is already seeking donors in the state to fund his campaign.
However, the close Trump ally could face an uphill battle to convince voters, given they rejected Trump by an almost 2-1 margin in November’s presidential election — Biden won the state with 64% of votes, compared to Trump’s 34%.
One GOP strategist told Politico that Grenell’s candidacy would be “a disaster. That’s a huge gift to Newsom to be able to frame the recall as Trumpists versus him.”
Another issue facing Grenell could be his lack of significant accomplishments to tout on the campaign trail. His signature achievement during his time with the Trump administration was the launch of a heavily touted campaign to decriminalize homosexuality globally, which purported to use the United States’ global influence to push countries to remove any laws that criminalized same-sex sexual relations.
The launch was undermined just days later when Donald Trump seemed unaware of the campaign during questions with reporters in the Oval Office, and 18 months after its launch it was branded a “sham” with “no major breakthroughs.”
Luke Acosta, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, called the campaign “window dressing held up as a major accomplishment by Ric Grenell, with no actual credible victory.”
Graeme Reid, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights program, went further, calling the campaign “smoke and mirrors,” and arguing that the Trump administration was using it to distract from its anti-LGBTQ domestic record.
“The reality is that the Trump administration has consistently undermined LGBT+ rights domestically and internationally, and the campaign is being used to distract people from that,” Reid said.
During his time as ambassador to Germany, Grenell drew ire from both American and German officials, with German magazine Der Spiegel interviewing more than 30 “diplomats, cabinet members, lawmakers, high-ranking officials, lobbyists and think tank experts” about the Trump official.
“A majority of them describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism,” Der Spiegel wrote. “His brash demeanor, some claim, hides a deep insecurity, and they say he thirsts for the approval of others.”
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