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2 GOP California governor candidates try to impress voters

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s recall election now features "the beast” and a "compassionate disruptor.”

That’s how John Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, Republicans running for California governor, pitched themselves to voters Tuesday in new campaign ads, taking different tones in their bids to oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Cox, a businessman who lost in a landslide to Newsom in 2018, released a video calling himself "the beast” to the photogenic Newsom’s "beauty,” a message he planned to reinforce by launching a campaign bus tour featuring a live Kodiak bear. He spent $5 million to begin airing a 30-second version on television statewide, his campaign said, a major spend this early in the campaign and indicative of the need to raise his profile in a crowded field.

"We chose beauty over brains,” the ad says, with a photo illustration of Newsom looking at himself in a mirror.

Jenner, meanwhile, released a video with a more inspirational and patriotic tone. She calls herself a "compassionate disruptor” in the ad that features clips from her Summer Olympics appearance in 1976, when she won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon.

Jenner, now a 71-year-old transgender woman, has held no campaign events since announcing her candidacy nearly two weeks ago, though a televised town hall in her hometown of Malibu is planned for Wednesday. The add offers her most expansive commentary aa a candidate.

"I'm running to be governor for all Californians, to reclaim our true identity, to bring back the gold to the Golden State,” Jenner says in the ad.

The ad shows a photo of Newsom only once and never says his name, though she is clearly blasting his pandemic policies by highlighting closed businesses and kids out of school. Jenner’s campaign didn’t immediately answer whether the campaign was running corresponding ads on television or whether the pitch was digital only.

The release of the ads marked a new phase in the campaign. Newsom, a Democrat, planned to hold a recall-focused event later Tuesday with two firefighter unions, one of his first explicit campaign events.

Newsom wasn’t expected to face an election until 2022 but critics of his coronavirus policies succeeded in collecting more than the 1.5 million signatures needed to for a recall election. There are still several steps remaining before the election is officially certified but the signatures collection and verification were the biggest hurdles. The election will likely be scheduled for the fall.

Other Republicans in the race include former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Congressman Doug Ose.

For Cox, the ad marks an attempt to get a fresh look from voters. He won less than 40% of the vote against Newsom in 2018 and has never won elected office despite many attempts.

"Millions of people voted for something named John Cox but he was never a very, I don't think, a very clearly defined John Cox, and so we're going to define him a lot better,” said Fred Davis, an ad-maker now working for Cox who is known for creating quirky, attention-grabbing political spots, including the "demon sheep” ad in Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful 2010 bid against California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Jenner is working with several former aides to President Donald Trump.

Kathleen Ronayne, The Associated Press