Who Is Running for California Governor 2021? Every Candidate to Enter Recall Race

The campaign to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom has now gathered enough verified signatures to trigger a special election that could remove the Democrat from office. Several people—including a celebrity, a handful of Republican politicians, some businessmen and a former porn star—have already said they plan to run against him.

California's Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the validation of the 1,495,709 signatures required on Monday evening—and the recall election is likely to take place in late fall. The ballot paper will ask California voters two questions: do they want to recall Newsom and, if he is recalled, who should replace him? If a majority of voters answer yes to the first question, Newsom will be ousted and the contender with the highest number of votes on the second question will become governor, regardless of the margin.

Newsom's team have expressed confidence that the governor will defeat any attempt to unseat him, but the list of Republican challengers is growing. No prominent Democrat has yet declared an intention to run, but contenders have another 58 days to announce their candidacy.

The most surprising challenger is Olympic decathlete turned reality television star Caitlyn Jenner, who announced her run on April 23. In a statement, Jenner, 71, described herself as "a proven winner" and the only candidate "who can put an end to Gavin Newsom's disastrous time as governor."

The Republican celebrity's surprise announcement has drawn comparisons to the 2003 California recall, when Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger unseated a Democratic governor, Gray Davis. Although Schwarzenegger was more involved in the state's politics when he stood than Jenner has been, the actor said this week that anyone challenging Newsom is in with a shot because Californians are so "dissatisfied" with the governor.

Joining Jenner on the list of GOP contenders is Kevin Faulconer, the 54-year-old former mayor of San Diego. He served as mayor from 2014 to 2020, after eight years on the city council, and is a centrist known for fiscally conservative but socially liberal policies. Faulconer has strong relationships with prominent Republicans including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which will likely give him good access to wealthy party donors.

The recall election is not short of candidates who are multimillionaires. John Cox, 65, who made his fortune in property and investments, has unsuccessfully run for office several times. He faced Newsom in the 2018 election for governor, spending $5.7 million of his own money on the race, but lost by a historic margin. Now he has declared his intention to take on Newsom, 53, again.

Former Rep. Doug Ose, another multimillionaire who made his fortune in property, is also planning to run. The 65-year-old GOP lawmaker represented a suburban Sacramento district in Congress from 1999 to 2005 and supported efforts to make President George W. Bush's tax cuts permanent. He briefly ran for governor in 2018, but dropped out of the race after performing badly in the polls and failing to attract much donor interest.

A number of less well-known Republicans are planning to run against Newsom. They include Sam Gallucci, a pastor and former tech industry executive, and Ric Grenell, a 54-year-old diplomat. Grenell became the first openly gay man to hold a cabinet-level post when he was appointed acting director of national intelligence in 2020. He was previously Donald Trump's ambassador to Germany.

Mary Carey, a former pornographic actress and radio host, has declared her intention to run. Carey, who stood in the 2003 recall election, has pledged to boost the entertainment and technology industries and help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. She also intends to offer more affordable housing, mental health support and drug rehabilitation to the homeless.

Angelyne, a former model who became famous for her appearances on billboards in Los Angeles in the 1980s, also fancies her chances of becoming governor after an unsuccessful run in 2003. In an interview with LA Magazine, she said that if she won power, she wanted "everybody to write me with their ideas," adding that if they had a "good solution" she would hire them to fix the problem.

Conservative social media personality Mike Cernovich and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya have also discussed potential runs.

The campaign to recall Newsom began last summer. Recall supporters have criticized Newsom for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, tax increases, abolition of capital punishment, rising crime and the lack of affordable housing.

Caitlyn Jenner to run against Gavin Newsom
Caitlyn Jenner attends Elton John's Oscars viewing party in Hollywood on February 9, 2020. Jenner plans to run against California Governor Gavin Newsom in this year's recall election. Michael Tran/Getty