On April 23, Caitlyn Jenner announced her bid for the governor of California in the projected recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“I’m in!” Jenner announced via Twitter, informally launching her campaign as a Republican candidate in California.
Her campaign page reads: “For the past decade, we have seen the glimmer of the Golden State reduced by one-party rule that places politics over progress and special interests over people. Sacramento needs an honest leader with a clear vision.”
The Cal Poly community expressed more criticism than support of Jenner’s candidacy. An Instagram poll collected by Mustang News showed that 93.5% of students did not support her bid, while 6.5% were in support.
Since Jenner filed the paperwork to run for governor, some LGBTQ+ activist groups denounced Jenner’s candidacy.
In 2016, Jenner publicly supported former President Donald Trump and attended his inauguration. Later in 2018, she publicly criticized Trump and said she was wrong in supporting his candidacy as he harmed the LGBTQ+ community during his presidency.
However, according to Axios, Jenner has arranged a campaign team including many key members from Trump’s political circle.
Environmental engineering senior Colin Barger said they want to be supportive of a transgender woman running for governor, however, Jenner’s past association with Trump has made that difficult for them.
“We shouldn’t downplay a transgender woman putting her hat in the ring and putting herself out there,” Barger said. “That’s obviously groundbreaking.”
But they hoped for a transgender candidate that would serve as more than “a fake figurehead.”
Barger said that by working with the Trump administration in the past, Jenner has shown she will not prioritize transgender rights.
“It hurts to see someone within your community supporting a movement that is just so engrained with transphobia and homophobia and racism,” they said.
Barger said they see now as a time where transgender issues are making a resurgence. Giving space to a transgender candidate who lacks strong policy stances or understanding of policymaking serves as a distraction from real issues like gender bills and gender examinations.
Barger said that Jenner’s campaign has focused more on celebrity than on substantive change.
“The governorship should be not something of fame. It’s a position. It comes with responsibility,” they said. “Considering what we just saw with the 2016 election, giving a title away and not assigning the responsibilities to it is dangerous.”
Political science assistant professor R.G. Cravens said that Jenner’s silence surrounding policy in her campaign platform, as well as the “mundane Twitter spats” she’s recently engaged in, may indicate that Jenner does not have the background in policy or understanding of government-workings necessary to be an effective governor.
“It could suggest there’s not a lot of substance behind the candidacy other than celebrity,” Cravens said.
Many students thought Jenner’s identification as a Republican confusing or paradoxical, but Cravens said that having LGBTQ+ candidates in the Republican field is essential to the progression of LGBTQ+ rights. When the GOP recognizes that LGBTQ+ people are important voters, they are more likely to appeal to those voters. This could potentially change Republican attitudes towards LGBTQ+ policies.
“By having trans candidates represented in the Republican field, it could potentially push Republicans to be more inclusive and accepting in the long run,” he said.
Cravens said that transgender representation is “woefully inadequate in the United States” due to “prejudice, transphobia, and a lack of knowledge or understanding.” Transgender representation is important to change attitudes about the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.
“It’s important to have political representation to tell people that LGBTQ+ folks exist at all levels of government — that LGBTQ+ people exist in every place in the United States,” Cravens said.
However, he said that descriptive representation and substantive representation are different.
“There’s a difference between that descriptive representation — having a trans candidate running, and substantive representation — having a trans candidate running who prioritizes transgender policy issues,” Cravens said.
Cravens said he sees criticism against Caitlyn Jenner within the LGBTQ community as an issue with her commitment or lack thereof to substantive transgender representation.
“Yes, representation descriptively is important but to effect real change we need substantive policies and support from candidates to make changes socially and politically that will uplift the LGBTQ community,” Cravens said.
Political Science graduate and sitting co-president of Cal Poly Democrats Rob Moore said that while Jenner is transgender, he doesn’t believe she will bring justice to the transgender community.
“When it comes to policymaking, to be someone who is fair and good and just to marginalized communities, you have to policy make on their behalf,” Moore said. “Caitlyn Jenner saying that she supports Donald Trump’s LGBTQ policymaking shows that she is not going to support the trans community if she were the governor.”
He said that there are a lot of “good people” in Sacramento putting in the work to progress LGBTQ+ rights and Jenner would reverse a lot of that progress.
“If Caitlyn Jenner were hypothetically the governor what that does is it hurts trans people,” Moore said.
Moore believes Jenner would not be well-equipped to do the complicated work that comes with policymaking and the governorship.
Jenner is running on a socially liberal, but fiscally conservative ideology which Moore thinks is a paradoxical ideology.
“Fiscal policies influence social policies and social policies influence fiscal policies,” Moore said.
Moore said that to legitimately support socially liberal ideals, one must fiscally invest in such ideals.
“You can’t just say I support universal health care and not put dollars behind that,” Moore said.
Moore said running for Governor costs millions of dollars that most people don’t have.
“Running for governor costs millions and millions of dollars. Caitlyn Jenner is going to spend those millions of dollars and just burn it all and lose,” he said.
Political science freshman Caden Essler said that Jenner’s abundant wealth has made her part of a small, tight-knit elite circle.
“Where she’s coming from as an elite, she’s only going to maintain elitist status,” Essler said.
He believes Jenner will work to not only maintain her own wealth but the wealth of other elites which could include tax cuts on the rich.
“To become an elite — to become someone with power in the United States — you have to make sure you are in consensus or in cahoots with other elites.”
Essler said that Jenner’s support of her daughters’ fashion and beauty industry has shown neglect of environmental issues in her personal life.
“We need environmental change immediately,” Essler said. “I don’t think she’ll do beneficial necessary change.”
Essler believes that Jenner as governor would not be in the best interest of the people.