Talk of Ashley Judd running for United States Senate from the state of Kentucky has created a whirlwind of media attention. How could it not? She is a world famous actress known for her social activism. The media loves stories like this because it generates interest from those who are otherwise apolitical. A celebrity running for office is the ultimate convergence of “sound bite news” and “tabloid sensationalism.” After all, Hollywood does create American royalty so it seems only logical that Tinseltown has also given us a number of prominent politicians over the years.
Sonny Bono served as the Mayor of Palm Springs, California, from 1988 through 1992, during which time he established the Palm Springs International Film Festival. After his failed run for United States Senate in 1992, Bono was elected to represent California’s 44th Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in 1994. The singer/actor turned Republican Congressman’s political career was cut short when he died in a skiing accident in 1998.
Clint Eastwood’s political views were certainly in the media spotlight during the 2012 Presidential election cycle when he delivered a memorable speech at the Republican National Convention. While Eastwood had long been a political voice for the right, it was with his symbolic speech to a chair that the “Eastwooding” meme was born. Eastwood is no stranger to public office, having served as the Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, for a term in the 1980s. In 2001, Clint Eastwood was also appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission, and later in 2004, he was also appointed to the California Film Commission.
Al Franken, the funnyman who was one of the original writers for “Saturday Night Live,” had a rather cumbersome road to elected office. He ran under the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party banner during the 2008 federal election cycle, but the razor-thin difference in votes for Franken and then-incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman turned the election into a long and drawn-out series of recounts and court hearings. Ultimately in the summer of 2009, the courts ruled that Al Franken had won the election by 225 votes and with that he was the newly elected junior United States Senator from Minnesota.
Ronald Reagan had already shown his leadership ability while serving as the President of the Screen Actors Guild, but it was a 1964 speech in support of Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater that acted as the catalyst for Reagan’s political ambitions. He impressed many with his oratory skills and was encouraged to run for Governor of California and did so in 1966, serving two terms that spanned from 1967 to 1975. In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford but the challenger fell a bit short in delegates at the Republican National Convention and Ford retained the nomination of the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan ultimately won the Republican Party nomination and the Presidential election in 1980, serving two terms as the President of the United States of America. An actor becoming the leader of the free world is something that even Hollywood could not script.
The action-movie star known for box office blockbusters like “The Terminator” and “Total Recall” served as the Republican Governor of California from 2003 to 2011. In a twist of irony, his wife from 1986 through 2011 was Maria Shriver, a Kennedy. Maria Shriver’s mother was Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy.
Jesse Ventura transitioned from the world of professional wrestling into the world of acting when he made his film debut in 1987’s “Predator” movie alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jesse Ventura then went on to run for Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, challenging the incumbent of 25 years. Ventura won the election and served as the city’s Mayor from 1991 through 1995 while still occasionally working as an actor, most notably in the film “Demolition Man.” In 1998, Jesse Ventura brought his fiscally conservative and socially liberal reform ideas to the Minnesota Governor’s election which he won. He served the state of Minnesota from 1999 through 2003, but chose not to seek re-election after just one term in office.