Former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner has made her entry into politics official, announcing her candidacy for the governorship of California.
“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,” Ms Jenner said in a statement this morning.
“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.”
California is among the most heavily Democratic states in the country. In last year’s presidential election, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump there by more than five million votes, with a popular vote margin of 63 per cent to 34.
Ms Jenner, a Republican who was supportive of Mr Trump throughout his presidency, will undoubtedly be considered an underdog as she tries to win statewide office.
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Ms Jenner described herself as a “compassionate disrupter” who had helped “advance the movement for equality” throughout her life.
“As Californians, we face a now-or-never opportunity to fundamentally fix our state before it’s too late,” she said.
“Taking on entrenched Sacramento politicians and the special interests that fund them requires a fighter who isn’t afraid to do what is right. I am a proven winner, and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as Governor.”
The current Governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, is likely to face a recall election later this year to determine whether he gets thrown out of office.
California is among 20 US states which allow recalls. To trigger one, organisers have to collect enough signatures to match at least 12 per cent of turnout in the last gubernatorial election, which in this case means they need about 1.5 million signatures.
The organisers here, which include the Republican National Committee and California Republican Party, believe they’ve already exceeded that mark, thanks to public dissatisfaction with Mr Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, immigration and other issues.
We are now waiting for the 2.1 million signatures they turned in last month to be verified. That will happen by the end of April, with the recall election to follow later in the year.
Voters will be asked two questions. First, should Mr Newsom be removed? And if so, who should replace him?
“For too long, career politicians have overpromised and underdelivered,” said Ms Jenner.
“We need a leader with a vision and the resolve to see it through. This will be a campaign of solutions, providing a roadmap back to prosperity to turn this state around and finally clean up the damage Newsom has done.
“Small businesses have been devastated because of the over-restrictive lockdown. An entire generation of children have lost a year of education and have been prevented from going back to school, participating in activities, or socialising with their friends.
“Taxes are too high, killing jobs, hurting families and putting an especially heavy burden on our most vulnerable people.
“This isn’t the California we know. This is Gavin Newsom’s California, where he orders us to stay home but goes out to dinner with his lobbyist friends.
“In the next few weeks, I will meet with Californians from across the state to hear their voices and finally get this state moving in the right direction.
“The significance of this decision is not lost on me. The sacrifice is significant, but 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.”
Ms Jenner first came to fame as an athlete when she won gold in the Olympic decathlon in 1976. Then she starred on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, a reality show which followed the lives of her family.
That might not sound like a great resume for politics, but remember this is the United States, whose last president was best known for being host of The Apprentice.
Recall as well that actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. He replaced Democrat Gray Davis, who was turfed from office in his own recall election.
Speaking to Politico about the Newsom recall effort last month, Mr Schwarzenegger said it felt similar to the lead-up to his own victory in 2003.
“It’s pretty much the same atmosphere today as it was then,” he said.
“People are working very hard. People are making unbelievable sacrifices every day. It’s very tough to raise kids and to have a family, and to go through this challenge, working to make ends meet.
“And you feel like, ‘Wait a minute, (the state government) doesn’t really do everything for us that they promised they’d do. We are working hard, but they’re not. They’re failing us every day.’ That’s what I see as the similarities from 2003. It’s the same vibe.”
Mr Newsom has derided the recall attempt as being run by right-wing extremists. Mr Schwarzenegger dismissed the Governor’s description of it as being a “Republican power grab”, saying the opposition party was too incompetent to orchestrate such a thing.
“This is the crazy thing here. When they say it’s a ‘power grab’ of the Republicans. Let me tell you, the Republicans couldn’t even get anyone elected. It’s ludicrous,” he said.
“The Republican Party doesn’t exist. These are the signatures of the ordinary folks that have signed on.
“People are dissatisfied. It’s the people’s way of kind of letting off some steam, and then they decide. ‘Do we want to follow through, or not follow through?’”
Mr Schwarzenegger gave this interview before Ms Jenner’s name came up. Nevertheless, it included a pretty relevant piece of advice about running for office as a celebrity.
“Yes, stardom helps, as much as when people say, ‘If you have money you can buy the election,’” he said.
“But there’s many elections we can point to in America where billionaires didn’t win. I think that you have to also show that you are personally interested in serving the people.
“The reality is, in my case it worked to my advantage, and I never looked at the recall as a political issue.
“I made it very clear to the people of California that I don’t see the Democrats as the enemy, and I don’t see the Republicans as the enemy. I said we must work together to bring the people together.”