Transgender activist and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner and her political advisers are gathering at her Malibu home next week to discuss her potential candidacy in the upcoming California gubernatorial recall election.
The meeting comes as Jenner, a 71-year-old Olympian gold medalist and Republican activist who for years appeared on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” weighs whether to enter the race. After batting down rumors earlier this year that she was open to running, Jenner has been taking more concrete steps to prepare for a potential campaign than have been previously reported.
Jenner has brought aboard a team of seasoned GOP strategists. The team includes Ryan Erwin, a former top official at the California Republican Party who had roles on Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush’s presidential campaigns, who is serving as a general consultant. According to two people familiar with the hires, she has also tapped Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member and San Francisco-based attorney, to be general counsel.
Jenner has also been working with Caroline Wren, a longtime Republican fundraiser who has worked for an array of candidates, and Brad Parscale, a former campaign manager to former President Donald Trump.
The four are expected to attend next week’s meeting with Jenner and her manager, Sophia Hutchins. Jenner has also been conferring with other Republicans about the race, including Dave Rexrode, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association.
Organizers say they have submitted a sufficient number of signatures to force an election later this year to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose approval ratings have dipped over the past year. The ballot would consist of two questions: whether to remove Newsom from office and who should be the new governor. A poll released last week showed support for removing Newsom is well short of a majority, however.
Word of Jenner’s potential candidacy has divided top California Republicans — with some dismissing it as a celebrity-driven stunt and others arguing that she would be a strong candidate who could appeal to voters of both parties.
Former Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) contended that Jenner would be a force given her high profile. In a short race that will transpire over only a few months, Walters argued, familiarity matters.
“If Caitlyn Jenner decides to run for California governor in the recall election, I think she would be a very formidable candidate,” said Walters.
But Mike Murphy, a longtime California-based Republican strategist pointed out that the 2003 California recall election drew scores of celebrity candidates who fizzled. The roster included everyone from the late actor Gary Coleman to porn star Mary Carey and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.
“I learned from the rather amazing and Robert Altman-esque candidate list from the last recall election in 2003 not to take too much of the pre noise very seriously. I think it would most likely be a stunt candidacy, but we’ll see,” said Murphy, who advised bodybuilder and Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful campaign that year.
Jenner denied interest in the race earlier this year, with Hutchins saying in a statement that “Caitlyn is not running for governor, has never considered running for governor and is very happy doing the work that she is doing to promote LGBT rights and spending time with her 18 grandchildren and 10 children.”