LOS ANGELES (AP) — Caitlyn Jenner’s candidacy for California governor is about to go from virtual to reality.
The Republican who calls herself a “compassionate disrupter” sits down for her first in-person campaign event Wednesday, a one-on-one interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The 71-year-old Jenner — who won the men’s Olympic decathlon in 1976 and decades later became a reality TV star and transgender woman — announced her candidacy about two weeks ago in a written statement on Twitter. Since then, her campaign has been slow to unfold, and the taped interview with Hannity will mark some of the first words voters will hear from Jenner since her campaign launch.
She has been active on Twitter and has posted a video and other materials on her website. She told TMZ on Saturday that she opposes transgender girls competing in girls’ sports at school, calling it “a question of fairness.” The comment angered many in the transgender community.
Thus far, Jenner, a Republican, has provided only a rough sketch of how she would manage the nation’s most populous state.
She’s choosing an exclusive location for her kick-off event. Malibu, where she lives, is known as a playground for the wealthy, with sprawling mansions perched above the Pacific. It has about 12,000 mostly white residents, and the median value of homes is over $2 million, according to government statistics.
Her cautious steps into the campaign highlight the risks for a political newcomer who could be tripped up by a vast array of complex subjects, from immigration to tax policy to vaccine distribution.
The written statements and video released so far, which include shots of her Olympic competition and gold medal, appear intended to introduce Jenner’s story to voters with only a cursory understanding of who she is.
With the Olympics more than four decades behind her, she’s probably best known these days for reality TV shows, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and the spin-off, “I Am Cait.”
Hannity’s show is likely to prove a welcoming stage for a critic of California’s Democratic-led government. It was a favored venue for former President Donald Trump.
“For a candidate like Caitlyn Jenner to win, it has to be like a layered cake. The bottom layer has to be Trump supporters,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who was a speechwriter for former GOP Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
“Where do you go to get Trump supporters? Simple. Sean Hannity,” Whalen said.
Jenner made headlines in recent years with her ties to Trump, who lost to Joe Biden in the state by over 5 million votes.
Jenner supported Trump in 2016 but later criticized his administration’s reversal of a directive on transgender access to public school bathrooms. She also split with Trump after he said transgender people would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.
Jenner’s first TV appearance comes as candidates in California’s expected recall election that could remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom later this year are becoming more visible. On Tuesday, Republican businessman John Cox appeared with a Kodiak bear named Tag to relaunch his campaign in Sacramento. Cox lost to Newsom in a 2018 landslide.
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and ex-Congressman Doug Ose, both Republicans, also are running.
Despite her notoriety. Jenner is a longshot to win her first try at elective office. Her threat to other Republicans — as well as Newsom — is her ability to capture the media spotlight, Whalen said.
“She is the shiny article in this recall right now,” he said. “She can make news any time she wants.”
The challenge she faces is getting past what Whalen called the “giggle factor” that comes with being a reality TV figure looking to run the largest state government in the country and the fifth-largest economy in the world.
“Will there be policy behind the polish?” he asked. “She’s going to need to produce serious ideas.”
Jenner took a small first step to answering those questions Tuesday, saying on her website that she would establish a working group to review state regulations, including those that could block the development of affordable housing, and promising to veto any tax increases.
Newsom’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal in advance of the interview, warning that “This is a huge event for the far right. It will introduce this recall attempt to people across the country. We have to be ready for what comes next.”