From Hollywood to Washington: Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood and other celebs who've held political office

ByDanny Clemens KGO logo
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood and other celebs who've held political office
While former "Apprentice" host Donald Trump's ascent to the presidency might have seemed like a first, celebrities have actually held office for decades.

If there's one thing the 2016 election proved, it's that anything can happen in the world of politics. And while former "Apprentice" host Donald Trump's ascent to the presidency might have seemed like a first, celebrities have actually been holding office for decades.

Here's a look back at some of the celebrities who held political office and a look forward at those currently running.

Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer

Before his long-running daytime talker hit the air, Jerry Springer spent a year as the mayor of Cincinnati during the late 1970s. While his political career seemed to be over after a prostitution scandal earlier in the decade, Springer staged an unlikely comeback and was ultimately re-elected to the city council, which led to his (albeit short) mayoral career.

"When I think of being flat on my back three years ago, having this happen is almost unbelievable," Springer said in 1977, according to WCPO-TV. "This is the best feeling I've ever had in my political life."

Pres. Ronald Reagan

In addition to serving as the 40th U.S. president, Ronald Reagan served as the 33rd governor of California. Prior to his foray into politics, Reagan was a well-known Hollywood actor who spent seven years under contract with Warner Brothers. His film career was cut short by military service during World War II, but Reagan later returned to Tinseltown as the president of the Screen Actors Guild.

After making the transition to television, Reagan worked for ten seasons on the CBS show "General Electric Theater," an anthology series that adapted various plays, books and other works of fiction for the small screen.

A Republican, Reagan was elected to two terms in the Oval Office and served from 1981 until 1989.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Mayor Clint Eastwood

In the late 1980s, Clint Eastwood served a term as the mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, a cozy town in California's Central Coast region. According to the city's website, Eastwood ran on a platform of bringing the community together and "stressed his desire to build bridges between the business community and the residential community."

Palm Springs Mayor, U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif.

After achieving success as a musician with former wife Cher, Sonny Bono threw his hat into the political ring and was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California, a luxurious desert city two hours east of Los Angeles known for its high-profile residents and vacationers.

After four years in office during which he worked to found the city's popular film festival, Bono went on to serve in the House of Representatives, where he spearheaded copyright reform and environmental restoration.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif.

Austrian-American actor Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to fame as an action film star and bodybuilder before serving as the Golden State's 38th governor for two terms from 2003 to 2011.

Schwarzenegger ran as a Republican, pledging to keep taxes low, boost education funding, protect the environment and invest in state infrastructure, according to a Library of Congress archive of his 2006 campaign website.

"For the people to win, politics as usual must lose," Schwarzenegger said in his acceptance speech, pledging to represent all Californians and build bridges across party lines while in office.

Coincidentally, Schwarzenegger later replaced Trump on the 15th season of "Celebrity Apprentice," which premiered in 2016 after Trump was elected to office.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

Comedian and "Saturday Night Live" alum Al Franken was first elected to the Senate in 2008 following a close race that he won by just a few hundred votes. The Minnesota Democrat served for nearly a decade before ultimately resigning amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Franken, a Democrat, supported single-payer health care, access to abortion, pay equality and affordable education while in office.

Pres. Donald Trump

New York businessman and "Celebrity Apprentice" host Donald Trump made a rapid ascent to the highest office in the land during the 2016 election, upsetting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after a contentious and heated election cycle.

Though he was widely viewed as an outlier from the moment he launched his campaign and frequently stoked controversy, Trump effectively branded himself as a disruptor and attracted a demographic of voters who felt underrepresented and forgotten during the previous eight years of the Obama administration.


Stacey Dash (U.S. House of Representatives, California)

"Clueless" actress and conservative commentator Stacey Dash briefly campaigned for a seat in California's very blue 44th congressional district, which includes Compton and other areas of southern Los Angeles County, in early 2018. Her campaign website detailed a plan to combat the opioid crisis, a pledge to improve school safety and a bipartisan approach to housing and community revitalization.

She suspended her campaign in March. In a 2016 interview with People magazine, she said she had ambitions to one day run for president.

Cynthia Nixon (Governor, New York)

Former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon campaigned for New York governor in 2018. A New York native, Nixon pledged in her first campaign video to combat income inequality across the state of nearly 20 million residents. Nixon, who ran as a Democrat, also promised to fight for health care, criminal justice and mass transit reform.

Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated Nixon in the September 2018 primary election.