Caitlyn Jenner notches dismal California recall election finish after much-hyped campaign launch

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Caitlyn Jenner grabbed plenty of attention when she launched her California gubernatorial recall election campaign in April.

The 1976 Olympic gold-medal-winning decathlete turned transgender rights activist and nationally known TV personality made headlines and landed numerous appearances on news networks during the opening months of her bid to oust and succeed embattled Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.


According to the latest unofficial results from election officials, roughly 64% of Californians voted no – meaning against removing Newsom from office – in Tuesday’s recall election, with just 36% casting ballots to oust the first-term governor. Newsom’s margin beat expectations, topping the final public opinion polls heading into the election, which suggested the governor would survive by a much smaller double-digit margin.

Caitlyn Jenner, Republican candidate for California governor, speaks during a news conference on Friday, July 9, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Caitlyn Jenner, Republican candidate for California governor, speaks during a news conference on Friday, July 9, 2021, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

For Jenner, the once high expectations of the spring were long gone by late summer. The Republican contender stood at a lowly 1% in the final polling average, and that’s where she finished, according to incomplete results – at 1.1% – in 13th place, far behind conservative talk radio host Larry Elder, who captured nearly half of the votes cast in support of the 46 replacement candidates.

Jenner made headlines for the wrong reasons in July – defending her trip to Australia to appear in a reality TV program – as she deflected accusations that she wasn’t a serious contender. And Jenner, along with Elder, skipped this summer’s gubernatorial debates, agreeing with her rival that she would only attend if Newsom took part in the showdowns.


“It’s simple. She didn’t run a real campaign or raise any real money,” said a source close to Jenner’s political team who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely. 

Talking with reporters on Tuesday night after the polls closed, Jenner said, “I can’t believe that this many people actually voted to keep him (Newsom) in office. It’s a shame, honestly, it’s a shame.” 

The first-time candidate thanked her advisers, saying, “When I decided to do this, I was coming in as an outsider. I’ve been around politics a long time, but never actually running for office. And I thought I really needed some great people to surround me, to help me get through this, that know the ins and outs of politics. I was able to assemble a great team. And I have to thank all of them, for giving me the guidance, the help, the work on issues.”


Jenner wasn’t the only recall replacement candidate to suffer a disappointing finish.

Republican businessman and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee John Cox, who spent roughly $7 million to run ads for his recall election campaign, stood in fifth place, with 4.41% of the vote, according to the latest unofficial results.

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