The former Olympic athlete and reality TV star confirmed the news on her Twitter account earlier on Friday.
A recall election in the state could be confirmed this month after a petition against current governor Gavin Newsom reached the number required to trigger a vote.
Voters would be asked if they want Mr Newsom to stay or another candidate.
According to the Axios news site, Ms Jenner has put together a team that includes some of former President Donald Trump’s advisers.
“Californians want better and deserve better from the governor,” a statement from Ms Jenner said.
“For too long, career politicians have over-promised and under-delivered. We need a leader with the vision and resolve to see it through,” she added.
Ms Jenner promised that her campaign will be one of “solutions” and provide a “roadmap back to prosperity to turn this state around”.
She added that she will formally launch her campaign at a later date.
media captionCaitlyn Jenner talks transitioning and winning Olympic gold
Should the recall election go ahead, it would be the fourth governor recall in US history.
Mr Newsom has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic. As infections started to fall, he came under criticism from business owners for still enforcing restrictions.
Ms Jenner described herself as a “proven winner” in her statement, adding that she is the “only outsider who can put an end to Gavin Newsom’s disastrous time as a governor”.
Who is Caitlyn Jenner?
Caitlyn Jenner has been described as the highest-profile American to come out as transgender.
She announced she was transgender in 2015 in an interview with broadcaster Diane Sawyer on ABC, and said the star said she had been wrestling with her gender since childhood.
The former athlete won a gold medal at the Montreal Games in 1976.
Before transitioning, she was married to Kris Jenner and the pair had two daughters, Kendall and Kylie. The family were stars of the hit reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Caitlyn Jenner said her step-daughter Kim Kardashian had been a big supporter of her transitioning.
California’s famous governors
California is not a stranger to celebrities running for governor.
Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2003 recall election, beating adult film star Mary Carey and former child actor Gary Coleman.
IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionArnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California for two terms
Seen as the Republicans’ new poster boy at the time, Schwarzenegger was tipped a possible future president but his Austrian birthplace was a barrier, as the constitution states that candidates must be US-born.
He stepped down in 2011, after seven years in office.
In 1966, former actor Ronald Reagan won the governorship of California and he won re-election four years later. Prior to going into politics, he had appeared in more than 50 films, eventually becoming president of the Screen Actors Guild.
But his biggest role was yet to come. In 1980, he was elected US president, serving two four-year terms.
Late last year, as a team of Minnesota state prosecutors was preparing for the trial that would ultimately convict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, they received a series of videos depicting Chauvin’s handling of another case three years earlier that by their own description shocked them.
The videos, from Sept. 4, 2017, allegedly showed Chauvin striking a Black teenager in the head so hard that the boy needed stitches, then allegedly holding the boy down with his knee for nearly 17 minutes, and allegedly ignoring complaints from the boy that he couldn’t breathe.
“Those videos show a far more violent and forceful treatment of this child than Chauvin describes in his report” of the incident, one of the state prosecutors, Matthew Frank, wrote in a court filing at the time.
Now, the U.S. Justice Department may do something that state prosecutors never did: charge Chauvin for the 2017 incident.
Two months ago, federal prosecutors in Minneapolis brought witnesses before a federal grand jury to provide testimony related to the incident, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported at the time. And this week, a source informed of the probe told ABC News that the investigation is still underway, with the Justice Department still weighing whether to bring federal charges against Chauvin for both the 2017 incident and George Floyd’s death.
MORE: Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in death of George Floyd
Officials at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) were recently briefed on the federal government’s interest in the 2017 incident, a move that came before the Justice Department this week launched a sweeping investigation of MPD’s policing practices, ABC News was told.
“We will assist the DOJ with anything that they need, and the chief has pledged full cooperation with any investigating agency,” MPD spokesman John Elder said, speaking generally of any requests made related to police conduct.
Months before the start of the trial against Chauvin, which culminated in Tuesday’s conviction, state prosecutors wanted to describe the 2017 incident to the jury to show a pattern in Chauvin’s conduct, but the judge presiding over the case refused to let prosecutors bring it up.
Nevertheless, in court documents filed before the judge’s final ruling on the matter, Frank said videos of the incident captured by body-worn cameras “show Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force towards this child and complete disdain for his well-being.”
MORE: Here’s how Derek Chauvin could try to get verdict overturned on appeal
According to Frank’s account of the incident, Chauvin and another Minneapolis police officer were dispatched to a home where a woman claimed she had been attacked by her 14-year-old son and young daughter.
After officers entered the home and spoke to the woman, they ordered the son to lie on the ground, but he refused. Within seconds, Chauvin hit the teenager with his flashlight, grabbed the teenager’s throat, hit him again with the flashlight, and then “applied a neck restraint, causing the child to lose consciousness and go to the ground,” according to Frank’s account of the videos, detailed in a filing seeking permission to raise the incident during trial.
PHOTO: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands with Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, after the verdict was read at the conclusion of his trial in the death of George Floyd, April 20 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Court TV via ABC News
Court TV via ABC News
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands with Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, af…Read More
“Chauvin and [the other officer] placed [the teenager] in the prone position and handcuffed him behind his back while the teenager’s mother pleaded with them not to kill her son and told her son to stop resisting,” Frank wrote, noting that at one point the teenager’s ear began bleeding. “About a minute after going to the ground, the child began repeatedly telling the officers that he could not breathe, and his mother told Chauvin to take his knee off her son.”
About eight minutes in, Chauvin moved his knee to the teenager’s upper back and left it there for nine more minutes, according to Frank.
Eventually, Chauvin told the teenager he was under arrest for domestic assault and obstruction with force. The two officers then helped the teenager to an ambulance, which took him to a hospital to receive stitches, Frank wrote.
MORE: DOJ to probe if excessive force, ‘unlawful policing’ used in Minneapolis
In his court filing, Frank said Chauvin’s handling of the 14-year-old boy mirrored Chauvin’s actions with Floyd, when Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck under his knee for more than eight minutes after responding to a call at a convenience store where Floyd allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill.
“As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense,” Frank wrote. “Just like with Floyd, Chauvin used an unreasonable amount of force without regard for the need for that level of force or the victim’s well-being. Just like with Floyd, when the child was slow to comply with Chauvin and [the other officer’s] instructions, Chauvin grabbed the child by the throat, forced him to the ground in the prone position, and placed his knee on the child’s neck with so much force that the child began to cry out in pain and tell Chauvin he could not breathe.”
Last year, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, Floyd repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe.”
PHOTO: People raise their fists and hold a portrait of George Floyd during a rally following the guilty verdict the trial of Derek Chauvin, April 20, 2021, in Atlanta.
Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images
Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images
People raise their fists and hold a portrait of George Floyd during a rally following the guilty verdi…Read More
But Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson disputed such comparisons, insisting, “[T]here is no marked similarity between [the 2017 incident] and the George Floyd incident.”
In his own court filing objecting to the prosecution team’s efforts, Nelson insisted that during the 2017 incident Chauvin acted according to MPD policy by using a neck restraint against someone “actively resisting” arrest, which MPD policy at the time allowed officers to do, Nelson wrote.
In addition, Nelson noted, “a mother had been physically assaulted by her children,” and when Chauvin’s use of force was reported to supervisors, it was “cleared.”
“It was reasonable and authorized under the law as well as MPD policy,” Nelson said.
MORE: Police officials respond to guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin trial
The judge presiding over the case agreed with Nelson that the jury should not hear about the 2017 incident, so prosecutors were blocked from bringing it up during Chauvin’s trial.
Three other officers who were with Chauvin at the scene last year when Floyd died have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin’s fatal actions. They are scheduled to stand trial in August.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by ABC News.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department was launching a civil investigation — not a criminal probe — to determine if the Minneapolis Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” including whether Minneapolis police routinely use excessive force and engage in discriminatory conduct.
The wide-ranging civil investigation “is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd that the Justice Department has previously announced,” Garland said.
Nelson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from ABC News.
Transgender politicians in the US
If she won, Ms Jenner would be one of a small group of transgender Americans to hold such a high-profile role.
She told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show in 2017 that she was considering entering US politics to promote LGBT issues.
Last year Sarah McBride became the first transgender state senator in the US after she won her race in Delaware during the 2020 elections. And she was not the only transgender candidate to make history during last year’s election.
Vermont’s Taylor Small, 26, was elected to the House of Representatives, while, in Kansas. Stephanie Byers became the first trans person of colour to be elected to a state legislature.
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Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter
The last time California had a recall election for governor, it ended with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the state’s top office. Caitlyn Jenner seems to be hoping that history repeats itself 18 years after the Terminator’s political success.
The California recall process – which sets up a two-part vote to remove the incumbent, then, if successful, selects a replacement from an open field of candidates – lends itself to upstart celebrity contenders who can stand out in a crowd. That is certainly true of both Schwarzenegger and Jenner, whose reality television stardom and personal history makes her unique.
It won’t be an easy path, however. Unlike Governor Gray Davis in 2003, incumbent Gavin Newsom won his first election in a landslide. He is building a sizable campaign war chest, has higher levels of popularity and is running at a time when California is much more liberal than it was two decades ago.
Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on his standing, but he’s still in better shape than the hapless Davis ever was – and the outlook for the state is improving. If California voters don’t opt to kick Newsom out, Jenner’s political hopes will fizzle before they really begin.