14 Hollywood Stars Who've Run for Political Office

8:15 AM 4/9/2018

by Deirdre Durkan

The 'Sex and the City' star, along with a certain U.S. president, are among those who have transitioned from Hollywood to politics.

Cynthia Nixon - 2016 22nd Annual Critics Choice Awards - Getty - H 2018
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

While traditional credentials for a White House run have previously included holding high political office or high military office, relying on past experience in the entertainment industry also has proven to be a surprisingly valuable winning strategy. With more entertainers politicizing their popularity, The Hollywood Reporter examined the industry’s longstanding practice of merging stardom and politics.

From beloved child star, Shirley Temple, who made history as the first female U.S. chief of protocol to Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon's recent candidacy for governor of New York, here are 14 stars who have turned to public service.

  • Cynthia Nixon

    Former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon is the latest star with no prior governmental experience to run for office. The lifelong New Yorker announced her candidacy for governor in a campaign video, saying: “New York is my home. I’ve never lived anywhere else; I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today. Our leaders are letting us down.”

    Her announcement sparked a media frenzy, which made her the No. 1 trending topic nationwide on Twitter only 20 minutes after her announcement.

    The accomplished actress has more than 17 years of experience with activism for LGBTQ rights and education. Her political rhetoric on inequality has been compared to Sen Bernie Sanders, with statements like, "We are now the most unequal state in the entire country, with both incredible wealth and extreme poverty,” spoken her campaign video.

    Nixon faces a challenging race against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a two-term incumbent with $30 million in campaign cash. Nixon plans on focusing on health care, ending mass incarceration and New York City's subway transportation woes. 

    A win for the actress would make her the state's first female and openly gay governor.

  • Donald Trump

    While Ronald Reagan was the first actor-turned-president, Donald Trump is the first reality TV star-turned-president.

    Before becoming the 45th president of the United States, Trump hosted and executive produced The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice and made a slew of cameo appearances in various films and TV shows.

    As a presidential candidate, he ran with the slogan, "Make America Great Again!"

    The television showman and billionaire's win was followed by numerous protests, given that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote, while Trump won the electoral vote, which is what ultimately determines the winner.

    Stars, like talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel, have condemned his lack of experience and attempts to repeal Obamacareand.  In his his opening monologue in September Kimmel said, "He likes to have his name on things, buildings, boxes. And, at this point, he’d sign anything if it meant getting rid of Obamacare. He’d sign copies of the Qur’an at the Barnes & Nobel in Fallujah if it meant he could get rid of Obamacare."

    The current president has said, "Without me, their ratings are going down the tubes," of the media in an impromptu interview with 'The New York Times'.

  • Kid Rock

    After a website popped up on the Internet in July 2017 titled "Kid Rock for Senate," Rock repeatedly confirmed his intentions to run for U.S. Senate were real, until he admitted they weren’t. 

    The rapper eventually revealed his motive in announcing an intention to represent the state of Michigan were to help promote his new album, Sweet Southern Sugar.

    Despite a history of controversial comments and no government experience, the singer's Republican Senate bid in Michigan and campaign merchandise fooled fans, who were surprised to hear Rock tell Howard Stern in an interview: "Fuck no, I'm not running for Senate. Are you fucking kidding me? Like, who fucking couldn't figure that out?" 

  • Ben Higgins

    The former Bachelor star announced his intentions to run for a State House seat in North Denver in a short-lived campaign. The 30-year-old Indiana native later withdrew his candidacy "due to unforeseen circumstances."

    Though he admitted he's "definitely not a politician," the Bachelor star told the Independent that he is still open to the idea. "Whatever lies ahead, love, grace, and hope are ideals that guide my life. I will take them with me into my next adventure,” he said.

    On his website, he included the statement, "I regret that I must withdraw my candidacy. Despite my best efforts to pursue this opportunity in good faith, I recently received information that has made such a pursuit unworkable. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be able to move forward as a candidate. I find solace in knowing that our intentions and actions have been fair and sincere. I entered into this endeavor wanting to bring positive change to my community, and it is with that same spirit that I will move forward, albeit on a different path."

  • Clint Eastwood

    The Oscar-winning director was elected mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., in 1986 and served one term but continued his entertainment career during that time.

    While in office, Eastwood managed to fulfill his promise to approve an application for an ice cream parlor in town and support environmental causes. In 2001, he was appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission by former California Gov. Gray Davis, then reappointed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Jesse Ventura

    The former professional wrestler was better known by his nickname Jesse "The Body" Ventura when he successfully ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn., in 1990 following his departure from the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE). He served from 1991-95. In the video below, during his victory speech, Ventura said, "Well now it's 1998, and the American dream lives on in Minnesota, because we shocked the world!"

    In 1998, Venture ran for governor of Minnesota — and surprised observers when he beat two mainstream candidates for the office. He did not seek a second term, blaming the media's invasion of his family's privacy, according to the Boston Globe.

  • Howard Stern

    In 1994, outspoken radio and television personality Howard Stern ran for governor of New York. Stern ran as a libertarian on a platform aiming to reinstate the death penalty and force construction workers to work at night, as well as implement higher highway tolls to alleviate traffic. He also promised once his proposals were passed, he would allow his lieutenant governor, a former state legislator, to undertake the position.

    In his announcement Stern said, “It doesn't matter if you find me offensive. I'll get out of office before I can really screw anything up." Stern dropped out of the race after he refused to release a personal finance disclosure.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger

    The former bodybuilder-turned-actor announced his candidacy for governor of California in the state's 2003 recall election on an episode of NBC's The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Despite never having held public office, he defeated a slew of candidates. Rob Lowe and Warren Buffett were among those on his campaign team.

    Schwarzenegger went on to serve a second term and has said he would consider running for president if he weren't banned from doing so because of his foreign birth. However, he recently went back to entertainment, announcing a Governator cartoon series, which recently sold internationally, and a feature based on the show, which imagines the ex-governor of California as a Batman-like crime fighter in 2013.

  • Sonny Bono

    The singer-songwriter-producer found success with then-wife Cher as one-half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher in the 1960s and later went on to star with her in the variety program The Sonny and Cher Show in the 1970s. After parting with his music and acting career, the former performer became an active conservative Republican, running for mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., in the late 1980s.

    He served from 1988-92 and in 1994 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Before dying in a skiing accident in 1998, he became a popular figure in his party for his deeply conservative views. After his death, his widow agreed to run for his congressional seat and served their district until 2003.

  • Sean Duffy

    Duffy is an alum of 1997's Real World Boston who later appeared on Road Rules: All Stars and had stints on ESPN. He successfully ran for office in Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District with the backing of Sarah Palin in 2010. Soon after, he caught flak at a town hall meeting for saying that he struggles on his $174,000 annual salary, according to Newser.

    The five-time world-champion log climber told Time his political inspiration was former President Ronald Reagan and that “the most overlooked issue facing America is the economic nuclear bomb we have given to China thanks to Washington's inability to reign in spending.”

  • Fred Thompson

    Thompson actually served as a U.S. Senator for Tennessee from 1994-2003 before turning to entertainment. In the final months of his term, he joined the cast of NBC's long-running Law & Order, playing Manhattan District Attorney Arthur Branch. In May 2007, he took a break from acting to make an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

    Hethen returned to acting, guest-starring on ABC's Life on Mars and CBS' The Good Wife and appearing on the big screen in 2010's Secretariat, among other credits. He died in November 2015.

  • Fred Grandy

    Best known as Gopher on the 1977-86 TV show The Love Boat, Grandy reportedly grew tired of acting and turned to politics. He won an Iowa U.S. House of Representatives seat in 1986, reportedly by 3,000 votes, and served four terms. In 1994, he entered the Republican primary race for governor of Iowa against incumbent Terry Branstad and lost by 4 percentage votes. 

    In 2003, Grandy join the Washington, D.C., radio station WMAL as an on-air host. He was forced to resign last month over comments he and his wife made about radical Islam during the show, including quoting a rabbi who compared radical Muslims to Nazis, according to Fox News.

  • Ronald Reagan

    The actor appeared in more than 50 movies before entering politics. In 1964, he delivered a rousing speech support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy and as a result was reportedly persuaded to run for governor of California.

    He won the office in 1968 and was re-elected two years later. Twice he was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1968 and 1976, but won both the nomination and election, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter, in 1980, to become the 40th president of the United States. He served two terms and died in 2004.

  • Shirley Temple

    After a successful career in Hollywood, Shirley Temple began her diplomatic career when she was appointed to represent the United States.

    She unsuccessfully ran in a special election in California's 11th congressional district in 1967. She later became the first and only female U.S. ambassador to the former Czechoslovakia, appointed by President George H. W. Bush.