OAKLAND — Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner portrayed herself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal in a Monday CNN conversation that marked her second national TV interview since she launched her California gubernatorial recall campaign last month.
Jenner emphasized some standard conservative positions on the economy and blocking illegal entry into the U.S., but eschewed more hardline positions. She initially pushed back when reporter Dana Bash called her a Republican, saying she was “kind of on the Republican side.” Jenner is a registered Republican voter in Los Angeles County.
“I don’t like labels, you know,” Jenner said. “I’m me. OK? This is how I do it. Just because I have conservative economic philosophy, that’s the only thing that the Republicans are kind of on that I’m on. But I don’t know, maybe you call me a Libertarian, maybe you call me the middle. I really don’t know because when it comes to social issues, I’m much more progressive, much more liberal.”
Jenner supported former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 before criticizing him in 2018 on transgender issues. Despite reports that Trump is considering a 2024 run, Jenner said in the interview that “we’re in a post-Trump era.” But it took multiple questions for her to say, “No, I believe in the system” when she was asked if she thought President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election.
Jenner gave the impression of a candidate still sorting through her political positions. She said she has been meeting with advisers from the fiscally conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University to get up to speed on California issues. The interview aired Monday night but was taped earlier at her home in Malibu.
She aligned herself with the Republican mainstream by saying she opposed new taxes, warning against illegal immigration and decrying what she called excessive environmental regulations. But she also seemed to embrace somewhat more moderate positions by advocating for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and saying she would follow the advice of Kim Kardashian, her former wife’s daughter, on criminal justice reform.
As she competes for attention with other Republican candidates — including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and former Rep. Doug Ose — Jenner has been pressed to provide more details on her policy positions after she declared in late April she will run in the recall against Gov. Gavin Newsom.
She has already released a campaign platform of rejecting tax increases and pushing the Legislature to more regularly review and discard regulations, cementing her conservative economic views. She wants to prod local governments to accelerate housing construction, a tactic that Newsom has embraced. She elaborated on that in her CNN interview by criticizing the California Environmental Quality Act, which critics have long derided for stalling development.
“I would freeze taxes. I would freeze regulations,” Jenner said.
Jenner broke with Newsom on environmental policy by saying she would “probably not” support a 2018 California law that sets a goal for the state to have 100 percent zero emissions energy by 2045. She said the market should determine when that shift occurs.
“Fossil fuel will eventually leave,” Jenner said, but “for the time being, fossil fuels are around.”
On criminal justice reform, Jenner changed her tone after having assailed “Gavin’s District Attorneys” on Twitter, setting herself against progressive reformers. She said she would follow the guidance of Kardashian, who has advocated for more lenient sentencing.
Jenner last week told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that she supports Trump’s wall along the southern border. But she also hinted in the same interview that she sympathizes with undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.
Asked if California’s 1.75 million undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship, Jenner told CNN, “I would hope so.’’ Saying she is “for legal immigration,” Jenner added she was inspired to run for governor by some of the current upheaval on the border, which she said included “kids in cages.”
She declared she was “absolutely” in favor of citizenship for many undocumented people, saying “I have met some wonderful people who have come to this country,” though she added “the bad ones” with criminal records should be deported.
Recent polling show a robust majority of California voters, include more than two-thirds of Republican likely voters, support creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are living in the country if they complete requirements like paying back taxes.
Nevertheless, after a preview of her CNN interview hit social media, Jenner took to Twitter to reassure GOP voters that she was still strongly in favor of Trump policies on immigration. “I am for LEGAL immigration. I strongly support the wall and I oppose open borders,” she tweeted. “As Gov, I will end CA being a sanctuary state and I would see violent criminals deported immediately.”
Jenner did not address the fact that as governor, she would have limited power over the issue, since California’s sanctuary state status is the result of legislation that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. California governors do not have the power to unilaterally repeal laws.
Jenner’s appearance on CNN came after a rough campaign rollout in which she was criticized for a website that originally failed to provide any policy policy positions. Then comments she made last week on “Hannity” went viral and were mocked by comedians after she lamented that a neighboring private plane owner at her airport hangar is abandoning California because he “can’t take” seeing people experiencing homelessness anymore.
Jenner, 71, is a wealthy political newcomer who became a celebrity nearly five decades ago with a gold medal win in the 1976 Olympic decathlon. But she’s also spent years on reality TV’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and has become a high-profile transgender rights activist.
Sources say the reality TV star has been meeting with supporters and GOP activists, and is involved in fundraising. But so far, the candidate has done no public events and just one interview with California media about her drive to lead the nation’s most populous state.
She said in the Monday interview that her famous children “are not involved whatsoever in this.” Jenner said she told them “I am not going to ask you for one tweet. I’m not going to ask you for one thing. You guys live your life.”
In that sit-down with the Los Angeles Times last week, Jenner said she was curious as to how her gubernatorial campaign would be met by the public and the press.
“Here I am, little Caitlyn. I’ve lived my life authentically for the last six years. I’ve never been happier,” she said. “Things have never been better. And I never could have done this in my old life.”
Ben Leonard contributed to this report.
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