Former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner is reportedly considering an entry into politics, and is “actively exploring” a run to become governor of California.
That is according to a report from Axios, which cites three unnamed sources “with direct knowledge of her deliberations”.
Reporters Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene say Ms Jenner is being helped by an experienced Republican Party fundraiser, Caroline Wren, who previously worked for a fundraising committee supporting former president Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Ms Jenner first came to fame as an athlete when she won gold in the Olympic decathlon in 1976. Then she starred on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, a reality show which followed the lives of her family.
That might not sound like a great resume for politics, but remember this is the United States, whose last president was the host of The Apprentice.
Recall as well that actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011.
Current governor likely to face recall election
The current Governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, is likely to face a recall election later this year to determine whether he gets thrown out of office.
California is among 20 US states which allow recalls. To trigger one, organisers have to collect enough signatures to match at least 12 per cent of turnout in the last gubernatorial election, which in this case means they need about 1.5 million signatures.
The organisers here, which include the Republican National Committee and California Republican Party, believe they’ve already exceeded that mark, thanks to public dissatisfaction with Mr Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, immigration and other issues.
We are now waiting for the 2.1 million signatures they turned in last month to be verified. That will happen by the end of April, with the recall election to follow later in the year.
Voters will be asked two questions. First, should Mr Newsom be removed? And if so, who should replace him?
Ms Jenner could put herself forward as a potential replacement.
Only one person has ever become the state’s governor via a recall, and it just so happens that person was Mr Schwarzenegger, who replaced recalled Democrat Gray Davis.
‘It’s the same vibe,’ says Schwarzenegger
Speaking to Politico about the Newsom recall effort last month, Mr Schwarzenegger said it felt similar to the lead-up to his own victory in 2003.
“It’s pretty much the same atmosphere today as it was then,” he said.
“People are working very hard. People are making unbelievable sacrifices every day. It’s very tough to raise kids and to have a family, and to go through this challenge, working to make ends meet.
“And you feel like, ‘Wait a minute, (the state government) doesn’t really do everything for us that they promised they’d do. We are working hard, but they’re not. They’re failing us every day.’ That’s what I see as the similarities from 2003. It’s the same vibe.”
Mr Newsom has derided the recall attempt as being run by right-wing extremists. Mr Schwarzenegger dismissed the Governor’s description of it as being a “Republican power grab”, saying the opposition party was too incompetent to orchestrate such a thing.
“This is the crazy thing here. When they say it’s a ‘power grab’ of the Republicans. Let me tell you, the Republicans couldn’t even get anyone elected. It’s ludicrous,” he said.
“The Republican Party doesn’t exist. These are the signatures of the ordinary folks that have signed on.
“People are dissatisfied. It’s the people’s way of kind of letting off some steam, and then they decide. ‘Do we want to follow through, or not follow through?’”
Money helps, but it isn’t everything in winning elections
Mr Schwarzenegger gave this interview before Ms Jenner’s name came up. Nevertheless, it included a pretty relevant piece of advice about running for office as a celebrity.
“Yes, stardom helps, as much as when people say, ‘If you have money you can buy the election,’” he said.
“But there’s many elections we can point to in America where billionaires didn’t win. I think that you have to also show that you are personally interested in serving the people.
“The reality is, in my case it worked to my advantage, and I never looked at the recall as a political issue.
“I made it very clear to the people of California that I don’t see the Democrats as the enemy, and I don’t see the Republicans as the enemy. I said we must work together to bring the people together.”
Incidentally, today Mr Newsom announced California will lift most of its COVID restrictions from June 15, though the state’s mask mandate will remain in place.
“With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy,” he said.
“We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic.
“The light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter.”