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Caitlyn Jenner, a longtime registered Republican, hedges on party status amid recall fight

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California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, a longtime registered Republican, hedged on her party status during an interview Monday night.

“I don’t like labels. You know, I’m me,” Jenner said told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview at Jenner’s Malibu home. “Maybe call me a Libertarian. Maybe call me in the middle. I really don’t know.”

According to voter registration records, Jenner has been a registered Republican for at least two decades. California permits independent voters to register without a party preference.

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Jenner has been on a national media blitz that has yielded decidedly mixed results.

In a state that spent four years as a self-styled bastion of resistance to Donald Trump’s presidency, the specter of the former president looms large over the Republican effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Jenner was at least one time a Trump supporter and is getting campaign help from some Trump associates. Yet during the CNN interview, Jenner appeared intent on distancing herself from the former president, at least a little.

When Bash asked Jenner if she believed the election “was stolen” — a question that has become something akin to a loyalty test in the Republican party following months of Trump-led election lawsuits and lies — Jenner said “no.”

But she walked a careful tightrope, vaguely referencing the need for future “integrity in our election system” — a talking point surely meant to appeal to Trump voters.

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Jenner publicly supported former President Trump in the 2016 election but later said she had made a mistake in publicly backing him after he pushed anti-trans policies as president. Jenner has faced criticism from LGBTQ activists for her prior backing of Trump, as well as for more recent comments saying allowing trans girls to compete in girls’ sports at school “just isn’t fair.”

Jenner is one of the handful of GOP aspirants vying to oust and replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in a yet-to-be-scheduled recall election.

The conservative-led recall process has been intensely partisan. No serious Democratic challenger has yet broken with party ranks to throw their hat in the ring, though the prospect remains closely watched.

Jenner, who previously expressed her support for building a border wall on the Fox News “Hannity” show last week, said Monday that she favored granting a path to citizenship for the 1.75 million immigrants in the state’s labor force who are in the country without legal authorization.

“I am for legal immigration, OK,” Jenner told Bash.

A clear GOP frontrunner — let alone someone capable of pulling support across party lines in a state where Democrats have a 22-point voter registration edge over Republicans — has yet to emerge from the early field of GOP hopefuls.

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Other Republicans running include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former Rep. Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, whom Newsom handily defeated in the 2018 governor’s race.

When asked what kind of experience qualified her to be governor, Jenner focused on her background in “the entrepreneurial world.”

People think of her as a reality star and she had certainly done that, she said, “but entertainment is a business. And you have to run that business.”

Jenner also said she felt qualified to lead the world’s fifth-largest economy because she planned to surround herself with “some really great people,” including some “budget people” she had met this week. Jenner did not offer many details, but did mention an individual at Stanford’s Hoover Institution whom she’d spoken with about regulations.

“This one guy, Lee, was just like the best,” Jenner said. “So smart. Been working on regulations in this state for the last 10 years. Has solutions. I said, ‘Oh my god, you’re like my new best friend.’”

Jenner also made clear that the extended Jenner-Kardashian family would not be campaigning for her. “My kids are not involved whatsoever with this,” she said.

But her famous brood wouldn’t be without influence. Jenner said she would follow step daughter Kim Kardashian West’s guidance on criminal justice reform, if elected. Kardashian West has become an outspoken advocate in the arena in recent years, even lobbying the California State Assembly in early 2019.

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