SACRAMENTO — Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner said Friday that she’s leading all contenders in the Gov. Gavin Newsom recall despite polling and fundraising totals that suggest otherwise, addressing California political reporters in her first campaign press conference.
Jenner said she plans a statewide bus tour in the month before the Sept. 14 recall and dismissed a major May poll showing that she was fourth among GOP hopefuls with only 6 percent support.
“Honestly, I’m not concerned about the polling,” she said, dismissing the survey as outdated. “I guarantee you that I am in the lead.”
Jenner said she has no plans to drop out of the race ahead of a filing deadline next week and will provide five years of tax returns as required by California’s elections chief under a new law.
“I have a tremendous advantage, obviously because of name recognition,” Jenner said in her first trip to Sacramento some 10 weeks after declaring her candidacy.
Jenner said she came to Sacramento to discuss her intervention in a lawsuit that Newsom filed to get his party affiliation listed on the recall ballot. Arguments were heard several blocks away Friday in a Sacramento courtroom after Newsom missed a deadline to include his Democratic affiliation — an option that only exists because Newsom signed a 2019 law that allows recall targets to list their party preference. The judge is expected to announce his decision Monday.
Republicans have seized on the lawsuit as an example of Newsom trying to skirt his own laws and rules, a theme they’ve hammered after the governor’s dinner at the French Laundry restaurant as he implored residents to stay home. In a Fox News interview earlier Friday, Jenner argued that “Gavin Newsom keeps changing the rules … he’s like a dictator out here,” she said.
Jenner on Friday charged that Newsom is trying to sidestep the law and that Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a fellow Democrat appointed by Newsom, may cave in. “I want to make sure she does her job,” Jenner said, “and I want to be involved in that process.”
Given her intervention on elections law, Jenner was asked about her own sparse voting experience, as POLITICO found she missed nearly two-thirds of elections dating back to 2000. “I voted when I needed to, depending on what the issues are … so no I have no regrets on something like that,” she said. “I’m actually very proud of my voting record.”
The former Olympian and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” star made the comments in a 13-minute press conference at the Hyatt hotel that marked her first media appearance in Sacramento during the recall campaign. She has not held a public campaign event or rally yet in Northern California, and she left Sacramento without doing other events, according to her team.
Jenner said she was heading next to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas — a bastion of right-leaning activists and supporters of former President Donald Trump — where she said she plans to do media. Trump is expected to be the headliner this weekend.
Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, is advising Jenner. Asked if she wants Trump’s endorsement in the recall, Jenner demurred. “No, I honestly, I’m not looking for [it],” she said.
“I’m an inclusive Republican,” she added. “To be honest with you, I don’t fit in that box.” She said has not met with Trump or discussed her campaign with him.
Jenner’s appearance underscored the unorthodox nature of the reality TV star’s gubernatorial campaign, which has flagged in fundraising and so far failed to post any major endorsements. There’s also been little evidence of traditional campaign infrastructure such as volunteers and county chairs. Members of Jenner’s famed Kardashian family — whose joint wealth is estimated by Forbes at $2 billion — have so far not written checks or publicly backed her bid.
Jenner is competing with a growing list of GOP candidates who include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, former Rep. Doug Ose and Assemblymember Kevin Kiley. Sources say conservative talk show host Larry Elder is also expected to announce his run next week.
Faulconer’s campaign on Friday issued a release on homelessness that called him “the leading candidate to recall Gavin Newsom.” The May poll by the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed Faulconer and Cox tied at 22 percent support from voters, followed by Ose with 14 percent and Jenner with 6 percent.
“Mayor Faulconer is leading the movement to recall Gavin Newsom because Californians know he is the only candidate with the experience to lead on day one,” said Faulconer spokesperson John Burke. “He is committed to holding Newsom accountable for his failures while laying out a positive vision to bring real change for families across our state.”
Camryn Dadey contributed to this report.