In Trump's Shadow, Hollywood Conservatives Look to Run for Office
If a former reality TV star can win the presidency, then surely others in Hollywood (with less baggage, even) can get elected to office, the thinking goes.
Seems there’s suddenly a slew of entertainment-industry folks — mostly on the right — who are considering a run for political office. Call it the Trump Effect: if a former reality TV star can win the presidency, then surely others in Hollywood (with less baggage, even) can get elected to office, goes the thinking.
Actor Dwayne Johnson’s name has been bandied about for a 2020 presidential run as a Republican, and he’s giving the prospect more thought than some may realize, even speaking to political consultants, those close to the situation tell The Hollywood Reporter.
But the latest to consider throwing her hat into the ring is actress Sam Sorbo, who is being recruited by some Republicans to run for office, perhaps governor of California or for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat, sources say.
Beyond Johnson and Sorbo, other industry conservatives plotting political careers include film producer Frank DeMartini, who is running for the congressional seat now occupied by Maxine Waters; soap opera star Antonio Sabato Jr., who filed documents to run for Congress in California; and musician Kid Rock, who is seriously considering a run for U.S. Senate representing his home state of Michigan, though before he unseats Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow he may have to run against rocker Ted Nugent just to earn the Republican nomination.
While most of the action is on the right, there are a few in the entertainment industry on the left who could run for office, as well. Oprah Winfrey, for example, flirted with the idea of a presidential run but told THR in June, “I will never run for public office.” Also, Disney CEO Bob Iger has ruled out running for California governor, though he might run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, people close to him say.
As for Sorbo, she is the wife of Kevin Sorbo, best known for his starring role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, which for a brief period of time in the 1990s was the most popular TV show in the world. The couple met when Sam played the hero’s love interest.
More recently, Kevin Sorbo has been starring in a slew of faith-based movies, including the surprise hit God’s Not Dead, which earned $61 million on a $2 million production budget, while Sam largely took a break from acting to homeschool their three children, 16, 13 and 12. From 2012-2016 she hosted a radio show on politics and religion that was syndicated to 170 stations nationally, and she was first approached by a large, well known Republican donor six years ago who said he’d back her financially whenever she decided to run for office.
Currently, the couple are promoting Let There Be Light, a Christian-themed movie co-written by Sam that features both her and her husband in roles along with Erika Eleniak, a former star of Baywatch — another show that was once the most popular in the world. Let There Be Light, which opens Friday, also marks Sean Hannity’s debut in filmmaking, as he is executive producer and he plays a small role.
While Sam Sorbo hasn’t officially declared her candidacy for any office, California congressman Dana Rohrabacher has already thrown his support behind the idea of her candidacy, though it’s obviously too early for an endorsement.
“I’m hoping for a detailed discussion before I endorse,” he tells THR. “But I worked for an actor who became one of the best presidents in history, Ronald Reagan, so I never doubt entertainers who are passionate about politics. Reagan certainly knew how to communicate and I know Sam is a great communicator, too.”
Republican insiders say the calls for a Sam Sorbo candidacy of some sort grew during her stint as a radio host then took off after Trump won the presidency.
“I’m flattered,” she says. “I think the notion I should run for office stems from me being convicted — I’m not afraid to tell people what I think. People are looking for leadership and when they see someone willing to take a stand, they want to get behind that person.”
Sam Sorbo, though, says it’s too early talk about specific policies or even which office she might run for.
“I’m fully focused on the movie now, so I haven’t the bandwidth to think about anything else. And you know what, culture is formed in Hollywood — politics is downstream from Hollywood, and I’m engaged in the culture through film. We’ll see what happens after that. But I love the idea of running. It would be fun.”
“Trump effect?” says Shawn Steel, the Republican National Committeeman from California. “If the former host of Celebrity Apprentice can win the presidency, I should run for something! It’s still early, but the biggest name is Dwayne Johnson, who would be absolutely terrific.”
DeMartini, a former lieutenant under Avi Lerner, producer of the Expendables and Rambo franchises, has been politically active — though fairly quietly — for many years. Four years ago, for example, he was among a dozen Hollywood conservatives who met secretly to discuss strategy with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was head of the GOP at the time.
Talk about a fish out of water, DeMartini stands for just about everything Hollywood’s overwhelming population of liberals are against, and he has written articles for Breitbart.
At his own website, DeMartini wrote of his presumed opponent, Rep. Waters, that “she stands for abortion on demand. She stands for gay marriage. And, she stands for transgender bathrooms. In fact, socially, she has absorbed every one of the Obama Administration’s most liberal positions.”
Meanwhile, at KidRockForSenate.com, the musician is already selling hats and shirts proclaiming his candidacy and he is registering voters at his concerts. Though he hasn’t officially said he’s running, he wrote on the site: “One thing is for sure though … The democrats are ‘shattin’ in their pantaloons’ right now … and rightfully so!”
Then there is Sabato Jr., who did not respond to a request for an interview but made a splash at the Republican National Convention with his strong endorsement of Trump. At his VoteAntonio.com website, it proclaims that Sabato Jr. “has not been shy about his political views in the face of his Hollywood peers and is proud of his early support for President Donald J. Trump.”