In February, before this year’s Super Bowl, we shared a list of political figures who had played in the big game. With the GRAMMY Awards presentation this weekend and the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees on Monday, I thought we’d look at some candidates and officeholders who were also actors and musicians.
We sent our staff hunting the web to see what they could dig up.
- Our list includes 12 current and former officeholders who acted in TV shows or movies—two presidents, two U.S. senators, three U.S. representatives, two governors, and three local officials.
- Those officeholders come from eight states, with four from California and two from Minnesota. Among them are six Republicans, three Democrats, one Reform Party member, and two who were nonpartisan.
- We also identified eight unsuccessful candidates for office who were also actors—four from California, three from New York, and one from Michigan. Seven of them ran for U.S. House districts and one for governor of New York.
- Two U.S. House members and three candidates are or were musicians, each from a different state.
These lists aren’t exhaustive. We focused mainly on recent officeholders and candidates whom we have covered on Ballotpedia, though there are a few additional names on the list. We reviewed a variety of sources in putting these lists together, including Backstage, Business Insider, Billboard, Rolling Stone, and IMDb.
From Fred Thompson and Cynthia Nixon to Sonny Bono and Clay Aiken, it’s a star-studded report.
- Ronald Reagan (R), the 40th president of the United States (1981-1989), was an actor known for his roles in The Killers (1964), The Hasty Heart (1949), and more. Reagan also served as governor of California from 1967-1975.
- Donald Trump (R) was the 45th president of the United States (2017-2021) from New York and starred in the reality TV series The Apprentice. He also made cameo appearances in Home Alone 2 (1992), Two Weeks Notice (2002), and more.
- Al Franken was a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota (2009-2018). He wrote for and occasionally performed on Saturday Night Live. He was also in Stuart Saves His Family and Trading Places.
- Fred Thompson, a former Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Tennessee (1994-2003), was in Law and Order, The Hunt for Red October, Days of Thunder, and Die Hard 2.
- Sean Duffy is a former Republican U.S. representative from Wisconsin‘s 7th Congressional District (2011-2019) and appeared in the reality TV series The Real World (1997). (Okay, not necessarily acting—but he was on TV!)
- Fred Grandy, a former Republican U.S. representative from Iowa (1987–1995), was known for his roles in The Love Boat and Maude.
- Ben Jones, a former Democratic U.S. representative from Georgia (1989–1993), was in The Dukes of Hazzard.
State executive officeholders:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) served as governor of California from 2003 to 2011. He was in many movies, including Predator (1987), the Terminator series, and The 6th Day (2000).
- Jesse Ventura (Reform Party) was the governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. He appeared in Predator (1987).
- Sheila Kuehl, a current member of the nonpartisan Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who assumed office in 2014, was in The Stu Erwin Show (1950-1955) and The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959).
- Steven Quezada (D) is a member of the Bernalillo County Commission, representing District 2 in New Mexico. Quezada assumed office in 2017. He played roles in Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and Better Call Saul (2020).
- Clint Eastwood was the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea in California (1986-1988). He has been in many films, including Gran Torino and Dirty Harry.
Actors who ran for office but were not elected:
- Kimberlin Brown Pelzer (R) ran for U.S. House to represent California‘s 36th Congressional District in 2018. She appeared in The Young and the Restless (1973) and The Bold and the Beautiful (1987).
- Melissa Gilbert was a 2016 Democratic candidate for U.S. House to represent the 8th Congressional District of Michigan. She was known for her role in Little House on the Prairie (1974).
- J. G. Hertzler (independent) ran for U.S. House to represent New York‘s 23rd Congressional District in 2018 and was known for his roles in Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), and Prelude to Axanar (2014).
- Chris Mitchum was a 2014 Republican candidate for U.S. House to represent the 24th Congressional District of California, known for Summertime Killer (1972) and Rio Lobo (1970).
- Diane Neal (independent) ran for U.S. House to represent New York‘s 19th Congressional District in 2018. She appeared in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2001-2012) and NCIS (2010-2014).
- Antonio Sabato Jr. (R) ran for U.S. House to represent California‘s 26th Congressional District in 2018. He was known for roles in The Big Hit (1998), Shark Hunter (2001), and General Hospital (1963).
- Stacey Dash (R) ran for U.S. House to represent California‘s 44th Congressional District in 2018 and was known for her role in Clueless (1995).
- Cynthia Nixon ran in the Democratic primary for governor of New York and for election to the New York State Assembly as the Working Families Party candidate in 2018. Her most recognizable role is from Sex and the City (1998-2004).
- Sonny Bono, of the duo Sonny & Cher, (R) was a U.S. representative from California (1995-1998).
- John Hall (D) of the band Orleans was a U.S. representative from New York (2007-2010).
Musicians who ran for office but were not elected:
- Kanye West is a music producer and rapper who ran for president of the United States as an independent in 2020. He lives in Wyoming.
- Clay Aiken was a 2014 Democratic candidate for U.S. House to represent the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina. He came in second place on American Idol in 2003.
Richard “Kinky” Friedman was a Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in the 2014 elections. He previously ran for governor in 2006 as an independent.