Caitlyn Jenner announces bid for California governor

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The former Olympic athlete announced her bid on Friday

Caitlyn Jenner has announced she has filed the paperwork to run for California governor.

The former Olympic athlete and reality TV star will run as a Republican in the Democratic stronghold state.

A recall election in the state could be confirmed this month after a petition against current governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, reached the number required to trigger a vote.

Voters would be asked if they want Mr Newsom to stay or another candidate.

According to the Axios news site, Ms Jenner has put together a team that includes some of former President Donald Trump's advisers.

"Californians want better and deserve better from the governor," a statement from Ms Jenner said, confirming the news on her Twitter account on Friday.

"For too long, career politicians have over-promised and under-delivered. We need a leader with the vision and resolve to see it through," she added.

Ms Jenner promised that her campaign will be one of "solutions" and provide a "roadmap back to prosperity to turn this state around".

She added that she will formally launch her campaign at a later date.

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Caitlyn Jenner talks transitioning and winning Olympic gold

Should the recall election go ahead, it would be the fourth governor recall in US history.

Mr Newsom has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic. As infections started to fall, he came under criticism from business owners for still enforcing restrictions.

Ms Jenner described herself as a "proven winner" in her statement, adding that she is the "only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom's disastrous time as a governor".

Who is Caitlyn Jenner?

Caitlyn Jenner has been described as the highest-profile American to come out as transgender.

She announced she was transgender in 2015 in an interview with broadcaster Diane Sawyer on ABC, and said the star said she had been wrestling with her gender since childhood.

The former athlete won a gold medal at the Montreal Games in 1976.

Before transitioning, she was married to Kris Jenner and the pair had two daughters, Kendall and Kylie. The family were stars of the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Caitlyn Jenner said her step-daughter Kim Kardashian had been a big supporter of her transitioning.

California's famous governors

California is not a stranger to celebrities running for governor.

Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2003 recall election, beating adult film star Mary Carey and former child actor Gary Coleman.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California for two terms

Seen as the Republicans' new poster boy at the time, Schwarzenegger was tipped as a possible future president but his Austrian birthplace was a barrier, as the constitution states that candidates must be US-born.

He stepped down in 2011, after seven years in office. Since then, California's governorship has been held exclusively by Democrats.

In 1966, former actor Ronald Reagan won the governorship of California and he won re-election four years later. Prior to going into politics, he had appeared in more than 50 films, eventually becoming president of the Screen Actors Guild.

But his biggest role was yet to come. In 1980, he was elected US president, serving two four-year terms.

Transgender politicians in the US

If she won, Ms Jenner would be one of a small group of transgender Americans to hold such a high-profile role.

She told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire Show in 2017 that she was considering entering US politics to promote LGBT issues.

Last year Sarah McBride became the first transgender state senator in the US after she won her race in Delaware during the 2020 elections. And she was not the only transgender candidate to make history during last year's election.

Vermont's Taylor Small, 26, was elected to the House of Representatives, while, in Kansas. Stephanie Byers became the first trans person of colour to be elected to a state legislature.

The last time California had a recall election for governor, it ended with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state's top office. Caitlyn Jenner seems to be hoping that history repeats itself 18 years after the Terminator's political success.

The California recall process - which sets up a two-part vote to remove the incumbent, then, if successful, selects a replacement from an open field of candidates - lends itself to upstart celebrity contenders who can stand out in a crowd. That is certainly true of both Schwarzenegger and Jenner, whose reality television stardom and personal history makes her unique.

It won't be an easy path, however. Unlike Governor Gray Davis in 2003, incumbent Gavin Newsom won his first election in a landslide. He is building a sizable campaign war chest, has higher levels of popularity and is running at a time when California is much more liberal than it was two decades ago.

Newsom's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on his standing, but he's still in better shape than the hapless Davis ever was - and the outlook for the state is improving. If California voters don't opt to kick Newsom out, Jenner's political hopes will fizzle before they really begin.