(Reuters) – Caitlyn Jenner, a former Olympic gold medal winner and transgender activist, on Friday added her celebrity status to a growing band of Republicans seeking to unseat California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose business-disrupting pandemic response has fueled a recall drive.
Jenner, 71, said the Democratic governor’s “over-restrictive lockdown” has devastated small business and deprived children of in-class schooling.
“Californians want better and deserve better from their government,” Jenner said in a statement posted on social media.
“I am a proven winner and the only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as governor,” she said.
The effort to recall Newsom began in February 2020, led by a conservative group called the California Patriot Coalition that opposed Newsom’s liberal politics.
As the campaign picked up steam amid frustration with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, closed schools and changing public health rules, prominent progressives from across the country stepped up in support of Newsom.
Other Republicans in the recall race include San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, and former US Representative Doug Ose.
California’s secretary of state is in the process of verifying the signatures necessary to force Newsom into a recall election. If there is one, voters would be asked whether the governor should be recalled, and if so, who should succeed him.
The last time Californians recalled their governor was in 2003, when Democrat Gray Davis was replaced by Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
-Peter Szekely in New York