Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican former Olympian and prominent transgender activist, announced on Friday that she would challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom of California in this year’s recall election.
Ms. Jenner, whose candidacy represents one of the most prominent bids for public office by an openly transgender person in the United States, said she had filed initial paperwork to run.
A recall election is all but certain in California, where Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, has come under attack for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans and backers of the recall effort have focused in particular on his leadership of the state’s economy.
Officially, it is still uncertain if and when a recall vote will happen, but organizers have said for months that they have exceeded the 1.5 million signatures needed to trigger such an election. It would most likely be held this fall.
In many ways, the effort is the work of Republicans struggling to maintain relevance in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. And Ms. Jenner faces a steep uphill battle: A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that just 40 percent of voters in the state supported a recall and more than half approved of Mr. Newsom’s performance.
“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,” Ms. Jenner wrote in her announcement, calling herself a “compassionate disrupter.” “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 to this state.”
Celebrities running for office is nothing new in California, where voters elected Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the latter in a special recall election in 2003 that ousted Gov. Gray Davis. But Ms. Jenner is a political unknown in the state, where it is notoriously expensive to campaign for statewide office.
Despite criticism of Mr. Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and other controversies, a recent poll found that just 40 percent of the state’s voters would support a recall of the governor. No other Democrat has entered the race, and elected Democrats have repeatedly pledged to stick by Mr. Newsom, helping to shore up his support among Latino, Asian and Black voters in particular.
The race would come at a time of steep challenges for California. In addition to the pandemic, the state is likely to face another drought for the second time in less than a decade.
Ms. Jenner, whose candidacy was earlier reported by Axios, chose to run after meeting with several advisers who also worked for former President Donald J. Trump, which could complicate her chances in California. Democrats have repeatedly painted the recall effort as a plan supported largely by far-right extremists. Ms. Jenner supported Mr. Trump early on when he ran for president, but withdrew her support in 2018 after his administration repeatedly attacked transgender rights.