In her first major interview as a candidate for California governor, Caitlyn Jenner sought to appeal to Trump Republicans – telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity she’s an “outsider” looking to “disrupt” politics as usual.

The former Olympian and reality TV star sat down with Hannity at her private airplane hangar in Malibu, a wealthy, celebrity enclave west of Los Angeles, to introduce herself as a candidate to replace Democrat Gavin Newsom in the forthcoming recall election.

“I am an outsider,” she told Hannity, adding that she wants to surround herself “with some of the smartest people out there” to help her develop her platform. “I’m in a race for solutions. I need to find solutions to be able to turn this state around,” she said.

Jenner, who has no prior experience in elected office, has seen her campaign get off to a stumbling start. The news release touting her first campaign video initially misspelled her name. And this week, the former Olympic athlete, who has presented herself as a champion for trans rights, said she opposes transgender girls competing in girls’ sports.

“For me as a trans woman, I think role models are extremely important for young people,” Jenner said on Wednesday. “Our suicide rate is nine times higher than the general public. And for me to be a role model, for them, to be out there, I am running for governor of the state of California, who would ever thunk that? We’ve never even had a woman governor.”

“But some are mad at you,” Hannity said.

“That’s that, I don’t care. I move on,” she said.

In an interview with TMZ this week, she said: “I oppose biological boys who are trans from competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. We have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.”

Sean Hannity interviews Caitlyn Jenner.
Sean Hannity interviews Caitlyn Jenner. Photograph: Fox News Channel/Reuters

The comments, which came as conservative lawmakers across the country advanced legislation banning trans children from sports teams and limiting their access to gender-affirming healthcare, have sparked anger and dismay among LGBTQ + advocacy groups and children’s welfare groups. They have also added fuel to criticisms that Jenner is disingenuous. Her campaign ad features footage of her playing in a women’s golf tournament.

“Make no mistake: we can’t wait to elect a trans governor of California,” tweeted Equality California, an advocacy group. “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?”

Jenner supported Trump in 2016, but later distanced herself from him over his administration’s record on trans rights. Her current gubernatorial bid is bolstered by former Trump campaign figures.

On Tuesday, Jenner released her first campaign ad, in which she called herself a “compassionate disruptor”.

“California, it’s time to reopen our schools, reopen our businesses, reopen the golden gates,” Jenner narrates, over folksy images of farms, diners and embracing families. “So I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, I’m running to be governor for all Californians. To reclaim our true identity, to bring back the gold to the Golden State,” she said.

But Jenner has had trouble pinning down her political identity, as she strives to woo Trump Republicans and moderate voters in a heavily left-leaning state. “I am all for the wall, I would secure the wall,” Jenner told Hannity. “We can’t have a state, we can’t have a country without a secure wall.”

However, she hesitated as Hannity pushed her on whether she opposed social support for undocumented immigrants: “We are a compassionate state … Some people we’re going to send back OK, no question about that. But I have met some of the greatest immigrants [in] our country.”

Later, Hannity corrected her when she said she’s pro- “illegal immigration”. “You’re pro legal immigration” he corrected.

“Sorry, did I miss the legal part?,” she said. “Thanks for catching me.”

Jenner will have to win over Trump-aligned Republicans, who launched the recall effort against Newsom. The effort gained steam this winter, as California struggled through its most deadly phase of the pandemic.

“For a candidate like Caitlyn Jenner to win, it has to be like a layered cake. The bottom layer has to be Trump supporters,” Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a speechwriter for the former Republican governor Pete Wilson, told the Associated Press. “Where do you go to get Trump supporters? Simple. Sean Hannity,” Whalen said.

In a state that Trump lost by 30 points in the 2020 election, Jenner – like any other Republican seeking to challenge Newsom – would also have to win over moderates and independents in order to win.

Jenner and Hannity reviewed common Republican talking points – lamenting pandemic-time business shutdowns, worrying over water restrictions for farmers amid drought, and trash-talking the much-maligned endangered Delta Smelt.

Jenner is the most prominent celebrity to enter the recall race. Other Republican challengers include John Cox, a businessman who lost to Newsom by 24 points during the last gubernatorial election and who is currently hitting the campaign trail with a domesticated Kodiak bear. Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego and Doug Ose, a former US representative, are also in the running.

No Democrats are currently challenging Newsom, who still retains broad support. Recent polling from the Public Policy Institute of California found that 56% of likely voters oppose recalling the governor, and 5% are unsure. Only 40% would vote to remove the governor from office.





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