Apr 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Caitlyn Jenner makes it official for California governor

Caitlyn Jenner. Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Caitlyn Jenner. Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Former Olympic decathlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner on Friday officially announced her bid for governor of California.

The big picture: Jenner, a longtime Republican, is seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election, hoping her celebrity status and name recognition can yield an upset in the nation's most populous state.

  • But in deep-blue California, she's decidedly not branding herself as a Trump Republican even as she's counting on some of the former president's advisers to drive her strategy.

She's assembled a team of prominent GOP operatives including Tony Fabrizio, the top pollster on Donald Trump's 2016 and 2020 campaigns, Ryan Erwin, founder of RedRock Strategies, and Tyler Deaton, president of Allegiance Strategies.

  • She's also hired Steven Cheung, a former Trump White House and campaign communications hand who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful 2003 recall campaign.
  • Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale, a personal friend of Jenner’s, has helped her assemble her team but doesn’t plan to take an official title on the campaign. 
  • The campaign's website and WinRed donation page are set to go live today.

Jenner said in a statement that "Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision" and that "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."

  • The statement decries California's taxes as "too high" and criticizes an "over-restrictive lockdown" response to the COVID pandemic including on in-person schooling.
  • "This is Gavin Newsom’s California, where he orders us to stay home but goes out to dinner with his lobbyist friends."

A campaign adviser tells Axios that Jenner has greater name ID than Newsom and can command the kind of earned media that "will go to every possible demographic you could think of."

  • Jenner, a trans woman, "is very socially liberal,” the adviser said. "She's running as someone that's socially liberal and fiscally conservative."

Don't forget: Jenner publicly voiced support for Trump until 2018, when he rolled back federal guidelines allowing transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. "My hope in him ... was misplaced," she wrote.

  • "Certainly she has not seen eye-to-eye with [Trump] on a lot of things," the adviser said. "I think that Caitlyn will talk to anyone, Democrat or Republican. Donald Trump is not going to be the deciding factor for the state of California."

The big picture: Jenner's team is convinced that the race is "totally winnable," but recent polling shows the scale of the challenge.

  • A statewide survey this month had support for recalling Newsom at just 40 percent.
  • That's just one of two contests Jenner would have to win—if a majority votes to recall Newsom, voters then select from the huge group of candidates vying to replace him.

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