Caitlyn Jenner: Reality TV star releases California governor ad produced by Trump campaign manager

Reality TV personality Caitlyn Jenner has released her first campaign ad in her bid to be the next governor of California.

The ad has an unabashed populist tone with Ms Jenner saying she will challenge the “elitist” political establishment as a “compassionate disrupter”.

Juxtaposing rose-tinted images of a golden age of California in the mid-to-late 20th century with dystopian footage of the state during the pandemic, Ms Jenner says that career politicians have destroyed the American dream in the very place that it grew.

“I came here with a dream 48 years ago, to be the greatest athlete in the world,” she says in the ad, noting her own history in the state. “Now I enter a different kind of race, arguably my most important one yet: to save California.”

Comments online decried another reality TV personality seeking public office. Indeed, Ms Jenner’s ad was produced by Brad Pascale, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. She is known to have met with other Republican strategists.

The ad features images of rampant homelessness, wildfires and shuttered businesses. It carries a distinct anti-lockdown message, with an emphasis on the challenge of children being homeschooled during the pandemic.

Accusing “big government” of having “taken our money, our jobs, and our freedom”, Ms Jenner says that the state needs “leaders who are unafraid to leap to new heights, who are unafraid to challenge and to change the status quo”.

Ms Jenner filed paperwork in April in a bid to replace Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom who faces a recall election.

The structure of a recall gives particular weight to name recognition as there are two questions: whether the governor should be recalled, and whom should replace him — usually followed by a long list of candidates.

Actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzeneggar became governor of the state in 2003 when voters opted to recall then-Democratic governor Gray Davis.

Ms Jenner hopes to follow a similar route, using her celebrity status to attract votes. She originally rose to fame as a world-famous Olympic medalist, winning gold for the decathlon in the 1976 games.

As a national celebrity, spokesperson, and occasional actor, Ms Jenner became known to a new generation as part of the extended Kardashian family. In 2015 she publicly came out as transgender.

TMZ noted the decision to leave out her family name in the campaign slogan “Caitlyn for California” and reports that her daughters are not thrilled with her candidacy and will not campaign on her behalf.

The ad features several images of Ms Jenner’s athletic career, but none from her time on reality TV. Likely a deliberate move in an attempt to head off some accusations of being a lightweight candidate — which have surfaced online regardless.

A lifelong Republican, Ms Jenner has said in the past that politically she identifies as “economically conservative, socially progressive”.

She supported Mr Trump in the 2016 election, before withdrawing that support in 2018 over his attacks on transgender people. Nevertheless, she has since joined with many other Republicans in supporting bans on transgender girls competing in school sports.

Reaction to the ad on Twitter included: “I’m sick of fraudulent tv personalities running for public Office! Enough! We have seen enough,” and “I can see by the people you have running this a la Brad Parscale all I need to know. No thank you.”

Others cited Ms Jenner’s lack of qualifications or experience in government, as well as her hypocrisy over girls’ sports in schools, pointing out that she competes in women’s golf as a trans woman.

“I don’t understand,” wrote one person. “She says government is involved in every aspect of our lives, but government needs to tell us who can play sports?”

Facing the possibility of the recall, Governor Newsom has the support of leading Democrats from the state, including Vice President Kamala Harris, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Ms Jenner is not the only Republican running, others include the former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer; the 2018 gubernatorial nominee John Cox; and former representative Doug Ose.

A poll in March found that 56 per cent of likely voters oppose a recall of Mr Newsom. Even if the recall were to fail, the governor faces reelection in 2022.

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