Caitlyn Jenner has released her first ad in her campaign to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in a recall election.
The ad capitalizes on her pre-transition athletic career, highlighting clips and photos from when she competed in the 1976 Olympics but not saying much about her when it comes to policy, other than that she is critical – but doesn’t outright oppose – public health measures taken in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
“California was once the envy of the world,” she narrates in the ad. “We had what everyone else wanted.”
“But career politicians and their policies have destroyed that dream,” she says as a picture of Newsom flashes on the screen.
Jenner – who has an estimated net worth of $100 million, hobnobs regularly with celebrities including her stepson-in-law Kanye West, who goes to the same country club as O.J. Simpson, and whose own daughter is a billionaire – later refers to Newsom as an “elitist” because he had dinner at a Napa Valley restaurant during lockdown.
This sums up her stance in the election: Newsom is a corrupt politician who introduced measures to stop the pandemic that people didn’t like, while Jenner… is a famous athlete who is vaguely critical of those measures.
“The government is now involved in every part of our lives,” she complains, saying that the lockdown measures closed businesses, forced parents to stay home with their kids. She pleads for sympathy for the “pastors who were not able to be with their congregation.”
But she doesn’t give many details about what she would have done differently, instead calling herself a “compassionate disruptor” who believes it’s “time to re-open schools.”
This highlights the vagueness of her argument, though. She’s doesn’t directly say in the ad that California never should have taken any lockdown measures, and the state already issued guidance in March to allow schools to re-open in counties with few cases of Covid-19. Cases are dropping in the state and as the vaccination rate increases, the majority of schools could very well be open by the time the recall election actually happens.
What she lacks in substance, she tries to make up for in celebrity. Multiple clips of Jenner competing in athletic competitions as a male are shown in the ad and she talks about how her previous life goal was “to be the greatest athlete in the world,” but now she’s in “the most important” race of her life.
One thing the ad doesn’t do is hide her identity as transgender, showing side-by-side images of her on the covers of magazines both before and after she started her transition. If she wins the election, she would be the first transgender governor in U.S. history.
But she doesn’t exactly have support from the transgender community. This past weekend, she even went so far as to say that transgender girls shouldn’t be allowed to compete in school sports, referring to trans girls as “biological boys,” echoing transphobic rhetoric commonly used by other Republicans and the religious right.
Conservatives have also been voicing opposition to her campaign, with Evangelical talk show host and activist Charlie Kirk saying on Fox News last week that Republicans shouldn’t support her because she’s transgender and “biological standards matter.”
While it’s not yet known who will vote for her – especially if other strong Republican candidates enter the race – her campaign appears to believe that her celebrity status is enough.