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Former Olympic athlete and transgender reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner is officially running for governor of California as a Republican.
“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,” Jenner said in a statement. “I am a proven winner and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as governor.”
Jenner is one of several Republicans who have seized upon a likely recall election against Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom as a chance to further their political careers.
As part of the election, voters will be asked two questions: whether they want to remove Newsom from office, and, if so, who should replace him.
Jenner, 71, has significant name recognition, something that could help her stand out among the dozens — and potentially hundreds — of people who will ultimately seek the governorship, as occurred in 2003 when voters selected Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace embattled Gov. Gray Davis (D).
In her campaign announcement, Jenner specifically focused on the detrimental effects of lockdowns ordered by Newsom in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying that the lockdowns have harmed small businesses and caused an “entire generation of children” to lose a year of education.
She also reiterated common Republican talking points around taxes, regulatory burdens, and the importance of a more laissez-faire approach to economic growth.
As part of her campaign, Jenner has assembled a team of veteran GOP operatives, including Ryan Erwin, who has worked on several national and statewide campaigns.
She has also contracted with Nucleus, a company run by former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, to build her campaign website, according to CBS News.
Jenner is a lifelong Republican who previously supported President Donald Trump but later distanced herself from him over his administration’s actions seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights.
She is likely to face off against several other Republicans who see Newsom as a political nemesis, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, who was the 2018 GOP nominee for governor.
Former Acting Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Rich Grenell, a Trump acolyte, is also weighing a bid.
Several Republican operatives have previously expressed hope that her name recognition, her “outsider” status as a non-traditional politician, and her focus on fiscal concerns tied with socially liberal views would make Jenner a more attractive candidate than a generic Republican, and could potentially help her attract support from independents and Democrats.
But she also faces an uphill battle: a March poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 56% of California voters would not vote to remove Newsom from office if recall supporters are able to certify the 1.5 million signatures required to force a recall election.
Unlike Schwarzenegger almost two decades ago, Jenner also faces a much more liberal electorate and a national political atmosphere where there are much fewer persuadable voters.
Democrats currently make up about 46% of registered voters in California, which, when combined with polling, gives Newsom an advantage that Davis did not enjoy in 2003.
“In the next few weeks, I will meet with Californians from around the state — from the North Bay to the Central Valley to Orange County and San Diego — to hear their voices and finally get this state moving in the right direction,” Jenner said in her statement.
“The significance of this decision is not lost on me. The sacrifice is significant, but the responsibility is great, and I can’t wait to lead, to help and most importantly to disrupt the status quo once again. I’m in!”
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