LOS ANGELES (CBS SF/AP) — Republican Caitlyn Jenner announced Friday she will be joining the field of challengers running against Gov. Gavin Newsom if there is a recall election in November.
Jenner — an Olympic hero, reality TV personality, and a transgender rights activist — said in a statement posted on Twitter and on an accompanying website that she has filed initial paperwork to run for the post.
"I'm in! California is worth fighting for," Jenner tweeted along with a call for campaign donations.
"California has been my home for nearly 50 years. I came here because I knew that anyone, regardless of their background or station in life, could turn their dreams into reality," Jenner said in a news release. "But 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."
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.
Politicians and analysts say Jenner will need to unveil detailed policy positions in the coming days and weeks if her candidacy is going to be taken seriously.
" I think there's a lot of people who are dissatisfied with the leadership of our governor. And a lot of them think they can help our state of California. And so be it. Let's see who has the best policies and the best leadership to get there," said Johnny Khamis, a former San Jose City Councilmember who said he left the Republican party over its xenophobic rhetoric surrounding immigrants.
Jenner's official campaign website does not feature any policy information but has an online store where supporters can buy merchandise. Many voters remain skeptical.
"I'm voting for Gavin Newsom. I'm voting against the recall," said voter Treb Ryan. "I mean he hasn't been perfect and his hair looks like a basketball coach from the 1990s. But he's trying to do the right thing. And I'm not willing to take the risk of somebody else becoming governor."
Other voters expressed concern about Jenner's lack of political experience. She has never held elected office before.
"She deserves a fair shot. I don't know if she necessarily has the experience in that field," said voter Jacqueline Ruvalcaba. "But if she's running, I'm imagining that she's done her research and has a plan."
Political analysts say Jenner will need to unveil those plans soon if she wants her campaign to gain traction and credibility.
"I think she's going to have to show she's a legitimate political candidate -- not a politician per se. I think she's going to have to bring some fresh ideas to the table," said San Jose State University Professor of Public Relations Shaun Fletcher. "She's going to have to bring some ideas that are in alignment with what Californians have been asking for."
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.
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