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Caitlyn Jenner might not be Hollywood royalty, but the former Olympic gold medalist, who also sired household names like Kylie and Kendall, is the biggest celebrity so far to unveil a run in California’s recall election.
Recall backers have submitted 1,626,042 valid signatures, surpassing the 1,495,709 threshold needed to trigger a special election, the secretary of state’s office disclosed April 26. But don’t expect the entertainment industry to rally for Jenner if the election indeed is held this fall.
The candidate has surrounded herself with aides to former President Donald Trump — a gambit that will cost her any serious support from Hollywood’s deep bench of largely left-wing donors. The team advising Jenner reportedly includes Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale and GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, who worked for Trump’s campaign. When asked whether the entertainment industry will write checks for Jenner’s campaign, a top political consultant tells The Hollywood Reporter: “No. I don’t see much there in terms of money.”
California is the most expensive state in which to run a political campaign, and tens of millions of dollars will be required for an effective campaign to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom, who still remains popular (a recent poll found that 56 percent of Californians would not vote to remove Newsom from office and 54 percent approved of the job he’s doing).
“Jenner’s going to have to drill down in Trump’s fundraiser base, but that doesn’t help you in California,” says Democratic strategist Garry South, who is skeptical of the chances for Jenner’s campaign. South was an adviser to former California Gov. Gray Davis, who, in 2003, became only the second governor in history to be recalled by voters. But in the past 18 years, California’s political landscape has changed dramatically. The GOP has not won a statewide election since 2006, and the California electorate is now more Democrat-leaning than it’s ever been.
Jenner, 71, does have some advantages. In addition to her own celebrity name recognition, her daughters who make up the Kardashian-Jenner clan all boast massive social media audiences, which could come in very handy if leveraged effectively. (Whether her daughters will publicly endorse her remains unclear.)
Another area Jenner is likely to play up is her work as an LGBTQ activist. If elected, she’d be the first transgender governor. But that avenue is fraught, as she’ll likely have to address the Trump administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and various GOP-led statewide efforts to ban transgender athletes from competing in public-school sports.
Equality California, an LGBTQ advocacy group, wrote in an April 23 tweet: “We can’t wait to elect a #trans governor of California. But @Caitlyn_Jenner spent years telling the #LGBTQ+ community to trust Donald Trump. We saw how that turned out. Now she wants us to trust her? Hard Pass.”
Comparisons with another star who ran in a recall — Arnold Schwarzenegger, who prevailed over Davis — may not be apt. Davis was not nearly as popular as Newsom is, and Schwarzenegger had already been dabbling in politics. “He was sui generis,” said South about Schwarzenegger.“There just isn’t another Arnold out there.”
Yet, when asked by Jimmy Kimmel on April 26 about Jenner’s campaign, Schwarzenegger didn’t rule out the star’s bid: “Anyone has a chance because I think the people are dissatisfied with what is going on here in California.”
A version of this story first appeared in the April 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.