Former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner gave her first press tour and press conference in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles on Thursday, kicking off her month-long statewide gubernatorial in-person campaign.
Her strategy is to focus on one issue for every place she visits, with her first stop in Venice being about the homeless crisis both in the area and across the state. During her walk around of the area and subsequent press conference, Jenner said she was concerned at how homelessness was being dealt with at the local and state levels.
“It’s sad. [Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex] Villanueva and the Sheriff’s Department only have 1 Lieutenant, 1 Sergeant, and 4 patrolmen to help control the homeless down here,” noted Jenner on Thursday. “Talk about asking a lot for a return on your investment. That’s doing more than expected.
“Gavin Newsom has never been here to Venice, which has been hurt thanks to his actions. He thought that investing in special interest groups and non-profits has been helping the homeless. But 90% stays with the non-profits. Maybe 10% actually goes to helping the homeless. The rest they use for themselves and to kick back to Gavin for support. It’s a machine and it has to stop.”
However, Jenner stumbled with some questions, such as the Globe asking about if he thought that the LA City Council’s recent homeless encampment ban ordinance would be expanded statewide under his Governorship. Venice residents who had earlier spoken for Jenner quickly explained the ordinance for Jenner, who has been out of the country for several weeks. Jenner then responded by saying “There are so many laws on homelessness. We need to take back public spaces. And the 25,000 units to be built in the next  years? That will never happen. CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) will never allow that to happen.”
For the main part of her speech, Jenner echoed her ads made earlier this year and recounted first coming to California 48 years ago and why she is running.
“I’m a patriot,” added Jenner. “My whole family has been fighters. I drove to this state in 1973 in a Volkswagen Beetle with everything I owned in the back seat. I remember crossing over the border and seeing the sign ‘Welcome to the Golden State’. For the last 48 years I’ve seen our state go down hill. 18,000 companies have left. Middle class families have left.
“If we don’t fight now and tear the roots of socialism out of Sacramento, then this state will no longer be golden.”
Jenner defends Australia travel, marks self as center-right Republican
While much of the press conference focused on homelessness, Jenner also went into many other issues, including questions about her commitment to running after going to Australia for several weeks in July and August to film a reality show.
“I never worked so hard for nothing in my life. I had a prior commitment set well before running for Governor 3-4 months ago, and unlike other politicians, I honor my commitments. I have a job just like Larry Elder has a job, and he is on the radio every day. I filmed down in Australia for several weeks to honor my work commitment, but I was also in contact with my team every day and working on what I would do once back in California.
“I’m for the people of California. I am a different option. Larry Elder is pretty far right, ok? He is a good man and I commend him for running. But I am center right. If you want centrists and Democrats to vote for a Republican, I’m the one. I’m an inclusive Republican. In California we need the center-right to win.”
“And it’s not too late. Mail ballots go out on the 16th.”
And although Jenner refused to answer questions about if she would keep vaccine mandates as Governor, she did reiterate her stance on not forcing people to get the vaccine.”
“I have been vaccinated, but we can’t force people,” added Jenner. “We don’t know what their personal medical situation is. We don’t know if they’ve already had it and they have the antibodies. The science is all over the place. It’ not just one set of sciences.”
“I would encourage people to vaccinate, and we need to wear masks and distance. But we can’t force people to vaccinate.”
While Jenner ignored hecklers challenging her on her homeless commitment or her purposely pre-selecting people to talk to, she did engage in banter with a man working out at the Venice Beach Gold’s Gym.
“I used to work out here,” said Jenner to one of the men at the gym. He responded “Why aren’t you here now?” After a pause she responded, “I need to save the state.”
Experts are unsure if she has enough time to make up for lost ground in the race, with recent polls showing her with between 3% and 7% support, well behind other candidates such as talk show host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox.
“She obviously gave canned answers and struggled with some more specific questions on Thursday that required a better knowledge of events,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz to the Globe on Thursday. “But she is still going, so she’s not out. Time will really tell here.”
Jenner is to visit Orange County and the California-Mexico border in the next two days before going off to the rest of California, specifically noting a visit to the wildfire damaged areas of Northern California.
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