Ashley Judd considering a Senate run? Here are 10 other actors who turned to politics

ashley-judd

Image Credit: Dan MacMedan/WireImage

Kentucky native and avid Wildcats fan Ashley Judd is considering a Senate bid in her home state, Politico reports.

The De-Lovely actress, who actually resides on a farm in Tennessee, has been devoting more and more time to political activism in the last few years, even completing a master’s degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2010. More recently, she’s discussed her political ambitions with Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and started conducting campaign research.

A rep for Judd offered no comment besides an earlier statement: “I cherish Kentucky, heart and soul, and while I’m very honored by the consideration, we have just finished an election, so let’s focus  on coming together to  keep moving America’s families, and especially our kids, forward.”

Should she decide to run, Judd will face some stiff competition from current representatives Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader – but hey, it can’t be as tough as Hollywood! In that spirit, here are 10 other actors who’ve shifted their attention to Uncle Sam in years past.

1. Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple was a movie star by age six, old news by age 12, and retired by age 22. And that’s just her showbiz career. Many, many years later, in 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for a California seat in the House of Representatives. Undeterred, she eventually earned an appointment to the UN General Assembly by President Nixon in 1969, and went on to serve as US Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

2. John Gavin

Remember John Gavin, the hunk who played Janet Leigh’s boy toy in Psycho? Turns out he was more than just chiseled features and steely determination; he was also politically conscious. And fluent in Spanish – a skill he certainly put to use as US Ambassador to Mexico. Boasting killer looks and an equally killer resumé, the Stanford grad assumed the role of Ambassador in 1981, appointed by none other than fellow actor-turned-civic leader Ronald Reagan.

3. Ben L. Jones

Who’da thunk that Cooter Davenport, the crazy mechanic from The Dukes of Hazzard, had the makings of a politician? Following his stint on the revered TV show, Jones held a Georgia seat in the House of Representatives from 1988-1992, ultimately losing re-election to up-and-coming scoundrel Newt Gingrich. Of his transition from television to public service, Jones has said, “I awoke naked in a tattoo parlor in Talladega, Alabama. I knew it was time to change my lifestyle. So I went into politics.”

4. Fred Thompson

Few people have toed the line between acting and politics so seamlessly.  Thompson’s been working steadily on the TV and film circuit since 1987, including a long stint as D.A. Arthur Branch on the various iterations of Law & Order. He also spent nine years as a US Senator representing Tennesse from 1994-2003, and has held several high-level positions at the State Department and the American Enterprise Institute. Hate to make this joke, but some people are just born to impose…law and order.

5. Sonny Bono

The former Mr. Cher started out as a songwriter, made a name for himself as the lesser half of Sonny & Cher, and then turned his attention to the good people of California. Bono served as mayor of Palm Springs from 1988-1992 and took a seat in the House of Representatives in ’94. During his time in Congress he fought, unsuccessfully, to pass a bill extending copyright limits; after his death in 1998, the Senate passed a similar bill called the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in his honor.

6. Jesse “The Body” Ventura

After fighting in Vietnam and establishing himself with a successful career in professional wrestling, Jesse Ventura headed back to his native Minnesota to campaign for change. He landed his first gig as Mayor of Brooklyn Park in 1991, followed by a Reform Party run for governor that placed him in the office from ’99-’03. In 2004 he took a visiting fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Maybe it’s time for the WWF alum to change his pseudonym to “The Body Politic.”

7. Al Franken

Jesse Ventura’s not the only celebrity to fight for the rights of Minnesota citizens. Comedian Al Franken, who was one of the original writers on Saturday Night Live and is probably best known as the self-help impresario Stuart Smalley, successfully made the switch from political satire to political action and was elected to the Senate for Minnesota in 2009. The election was highly contested – it was decided by just over 300 votes – but Franken triumphed nonetheless, and continues to serve his fellow Minnesotans as Senator.

8. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood, a man who is virtually synonymous with “Western,” “rogue justice,” and “squinting,” made his tough on-screen populism a reality for two years when, in 1986, he was elected Mayor of his adopted hometown, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. He has not served as a public servant since, but has remained a vocal proponent of libertarian causes. He has also taken to addressing empty chairs at Republican rallies.

9. Arnold Schwarzenegger

No list of actors who transitioned to political life would be complete without “The Governator.” Schwarzenegger is in some ways the embodiment of the American Dream – a foreigner who came to the US and achieved incomprehensible success in Hollywood, then followed that up with two terms as Governor of California. One does not witness such upward mobility very often. Unfortunately, one also doesn’t witness such upward mobility without intrigue, as evidenced by the infidelity that ended Schwarzenegger’s 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver.

10. Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan left his forgettable Hollywood career behind and served as Governor of California for eight years. Then, following an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, he was elected Commander in Chief in 1981 and the rest, as they say, is history. Reagan was the ’80s in the US, and his conservative legacy continues to inspire, and haunt, American political thought. Not bad for a guy who once co-starred with chimp.

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