Republicans and transgender advocates react to Caitlyn Jenner's campaign for governor
OAKLAND, Calif. - Former Olympian, reality TV star and transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner announced to the world she's running to be California's governor by posting "I'm in" on social media and in a headline on her website caitlynjenner.com. Cups, caps, and bumper stickers were for sale online reading "Caitlyn for California."
A recall petition is expected to be certified next month, prompting a recall election in the fall.
Jenner is a lifelong conservative and has come out as a voice for Republicans in the past.
"It was easy to come out as trans. It was harder to come out as a Republican," Jenner said at an event in July 2016.
Some transgender advocates in the Bay Area said they're glad to see Jenner bringing a higher profile to transgender people in politics.
"I think it's a pretty big deal. It's a very historic moment. We definitely need more voices at the table, especially more trans voices. We're highly underrepresented in public office," said Robyn Kuslits, a Concord resident who serves as vice-president of the Board for the Rainbow Community Center in Concord.
"It can expand all of our awareness that we as transgender people are valid and that we represent a lot of diverse expressions, values and interests," said Kiku Johnson, the Rainbow Community Center's executive director.
The question for many is what Jenner will decide to represent.
San Francisco Republican Party Chair John Dennis says he feels Jenner's candidacy challenges stereotypes of the GOp as lacking diversity.
"I mean even in San Francisco last year we put forth a candidate for state senate who is transgender," said John Dennis, the San Francisco Republican Party Chairman.
Dennis says Jenner has celebrity status with name ID, plenty of money to self-finance her campaign, and a winning mindset that could make her a serious contender.
"As Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn became the greatest athlete in the world. That shows an ability to win, and a drive, and a persistence that is really, I don't think Gavin Newsom has," said Dennis.
Governor Gavin Newsom criticized Jenner's political support for Donald Trump, though she later parted ways with Trump on transgender policies.
A Newsom campaign spokesman said in a statement, "We always knew the Republican recall would be a ludicrous circus full of Trump-supporters which only reinforces how much Californian's appreciate Governor Newsom's competent compassionate experienced leadership during an unprecedented series of crises."
"At the end of the day it will come down to how people are feeling about the state and the stewardship of Governor Newsom," said former California Governor Jerry Brown.
Many transgender people say they're waiting to hear what matters most...Jenner's policy positions.
The main focus really is beyond the party lines. Are we valid? Are we being affirmed? Are we being given equity and equal access to systems?" said Johnson.
If the recall petition is approved, Jenner likely won't be the only big name to enter the race.
A recall election in 2003 had more than 130 candidates. The winner would not need a majority of votes, but only needs to win a plurality.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.