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McConaughey for governor? 15 celebs you probably forgot won, lost elections

Nate Chute
Austin 360

Matthew McConaughey told Austin360 in mid-March that he's giving a run for the state's highest elected position "honest consideration." Whether it means putting his hat in the political ring or not, McConaughey said he is weighing how he can be most useful as a leader.

"I’m ready to step into a leadership position in this next chapter of my life, but I don’t know that that’s in politics," McConaughey said in an interview.

Column:If McConaughey is serious about running for governor, he'd face serious hurdles

Should he decide to run for governor, the Texas native said he hasn't decided if he would run as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. Here's a look at the results of 15 celebrity campaigns:

Al Franken

An original performer on Saturday Night Live, Al Franken ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota in 2008 as a Democrat. The election was so close that it triggered a recount, with the final results concluding that Franken won by 312 votes. 

Sen. Al Franken shakes hands with DeVos after her confirmation hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on Jan. 17, 2017.

Franken held the seat for nearly two full terms. He resigned in 2019 following allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

A native of Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger became a U.S. citizen in the 1980s during his rise as an action movie star. He ran for governor of California as a Republican in 2003 following the recall of then Democrat Gray Davis.

Arnold Schwarzenegger takes the oath of office for governor of California on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, Monday, Nov. 17, 2003. Schwarzenegger's wife Maria Shriver stands to his side while California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George administers the oath..

Schwarzenegger won the 2003 election with 48.6% of the vote and won re-election in  2006 with 55.9% of the vote. He left office in 2011 after reaching the two-term limit in the state.

Clay Aiken

In 2003, Aiken was runner up to Ruben Studdard on the second season of "American Idol."

Clay Aiken: Clay, who has released seven studio albums, is familiar with the runner-up spot on reality TV. In addition to the second season of American Idol, he lost to Arsenio Hall in the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice. Clay is also politically active and ran as a Democrat for North Carolina's 2nd congressional district in 2014.

After releasing several albums, the North Carolina native ran to represent the state's 2nd district in Congress in 2014. Aiken won the Democratic primary in a narrow race but ended up losing the general election to Republican Renee Elmers by 18 points.

Clint Eastwood

After decades of making movies, Clint Eastwood ran for mayor of a California city that at the time had less than 5,000 residents. He made the decision after facing legal issues with the Carmel city council regarding property that he owned locally in 1986.

Eastwood, a longtime Republican who held the elected position without party affiliation, defeated the incumbent mayor in a landslide. Two years later, he decided against running for re-election.

Cynthia Nixon

Best known for her role in "Sex and the City," Cynthia Nixon decided to run for governor in the Empire State in 2018.

In February, actress and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon publicly backed Sanders because he's "for all of us.” 
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"What you need in a politician is someone with a vision, someone who can galvanize people, and someone who can’t be bought. And there is no one who has those three qualities in greater abundance than Bernie Sanders,” Nixon announced in a YouTube video.

She faced current Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the state Democratic party's primary and received 35% of votes compared with Cuomo's 65%, disqualifying her from representing the party in the general election.

Donald Trump

A real estate developer who turned into a reality TV star, Donald Trump was the 45th president of the United States.

Trump, who ran as a Republican, won 2016 with more electoral votes but less popular votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump lost his 2020 re-election bid to current president Joe Biden.

Fred Thompson

Largely known for his role in "Law and Order" and big-budget movies, Thompson became a U.S. Senator from Tennessee after winning a special election to fill Vice President Al Gore's Senate seat in 1994. 

Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, right, talks with CNN's Al Hunt near the Tennessee delegates during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa. July 31, 2000. Thompson was constantly approached by friends and well-wishers.

A Republican, Thompson won re-election in 1996 but by 2002, he said he "did not have the heart for another six-year term." He returned to acting and in 2007, announced his intent to run for president. His campaign lasted for four months and he withdrew from the race in early 2008.

Jerry Springer

Years before his tabloid talk show, Springer had lost a Congressional race and then won a city council seat. He resigned from the position in 1974 after he admitted to soliciting a prostitute. Three years later, he was appointed to a one-year term as mayor.

His political career didn't stop there. In 1982, he unsuccessfully ran for governor of Ohio as a Democrat. Jump forward a decade, and his show, "The Jerry Springer Show," debuted on local NBC-affiliate WLWT.

Jesse Ventura

Nicknamed "The Body" during his extensive pro-wrestling career, Jesse Ventura ran for governor of Minnesota in 1998. He did so as neither a Democrat or Republican, but as a member of the Reform Party of Minnesota.

No one thought ex-pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura had a chance to become governor of Minnesota, at least not until he won in 1998.

Ventura won the election narrowly and declared "we shocked the world," once the results were known. He did not run for re-election.

Kanye West

A longtime producer and rapper, Kanye West said in 2015 that he would run for president in 2020. He made that announcement official on July 4, 2020, saying he was running as a member of the "Birthday Party."

Rapper Kanye West's net worth is $1.3 billion.

He didn't reach the threshold to appear on each state's ballot due to a lack of signatures in some states. However, he did earn more than 60,000 votes, including over 10,000 in Tennessee. Election winner Joe Biden won the election with over 81 million votes in 2020.

Noble Willingham

Best known for his roles on TV shows like "Texas Walker Ranger" and "Home Improvement," Noble Willingham ran to represent Texas's 1st Congressional district in 2000.

Actor Noble Willingham, right, who appears on the television show, "Walker Texas Ranger" stumps at Lamar County Courthouse in Paris, Texas, Monday, Feb. 7, 2000. Willingham is running for Congress as a Republican against Rep. Max Sandlin, D-Texas. (AP Photo/The Paris News, John Conrad) ORG XMIT: TXPAR101

The Texas native ran as a Republican and lost to incumbent and fellow Republican Louie Gohmert, who still represents the district today.

Richard Petty

Nicknamed "The King" following a career of NASCAR wins, Richard Petty sought election as North Carolina's secretary of state in 1996. Petty ran as a Republican and lost to Elaine Marshall, a Democratic state senator at the time.

Richard Petty and Leonard Wood celebrate the win of Trevor Bayne No. 21 on pit road after the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday February 20, 2011.

"(If) I had known I wasn't going to win, I wouldn't have run," Petty famously said at the time.

Ronald Reagan

An actor in movies and TV shows in the 1940s and 1950s, Ronald Reagan was first elected California's governor as a Republican in 1966, winning re-election to the post in 1970 after losing his party's nomination for the presidency in 1968.

Reagan would lose that nomination again in 1976, but in 1980, he'd win both it and the general election in a landslide victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter. He won re-election in 1984 in another landslide win, too.

Roseanne Barr

In 2011, longtime TV actor, writer and producer Roseanne Barr announced her intent to seek the presidency. She joined the Green Party, finishing runner-up behind Jill Stein in the party's primary, pushing her to run under another party named the "Peace and Freedom Party."

477786637.jpg BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 10:  Actress Roseanne Barr attends The Paley Center For Media's 2014 PaleyFest Icon Award announcement at The Paley Center for Media on March 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Barr ultimately won just shy of 50,000 votes in the general election. Barack Obama, won re-election that year, finished with mover than 65 million votes.

Shirley Temple

One of Hollywood's original child stars, Shirley Temple sought political office in 1967. She ran in a special election following the death of J. Arthur Younger, a longtime Republican representative for California's 11th Congressional District. She lost in the Republican primary to Pete McCloskey, but her career in politics didn't end there.

Shirley Temple

She was appointed as a delegate to the UN general assembly by President Richard Nixon in 1969. By 1974, she was appointed by President Gerald Ford as U.S. ambassador to Ghana and from 1989 to 1992, was U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia under President George H.W. Bush.