19 Famous Athletes and Celebrities Who've Run for Political Office (PHOTOS)

Rona Gindin | Aug 27, 2015 Celebrities

We've watched these famous faces snatch fictional criminals, play ball, and sing their hearts out, so when these headliners decided to run for office, they certainly snagged our attention. Even real estate tycoon Donald Trump has decided to throw his hat in the political ring, vying for the presidency in 2016 -- and pissing off a slew of people while seemingly exciting others. 

Each of these 19 former athletes and actors went from performing before the cameras to politicking before them. 

 

Image @ John Locher/AP/Corbia

 

  • Melissa Gilbert

    1

    If all goes according to plan, Gilbert will go from Little House on the Prairie to the big White House. Gilbert is running for congress in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District. As for experience, she served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005, which probably involved a different kind of politics.  

  • Clint Eastwood

    2

    Although the octogenarian is best known for his incredible cinematic performances both in front of and behind the camera, he has done his civic duty, too. Long active in Republican circles, Eastwood served as mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, from 1986 to 1988. It was a nonpartisan position.

  • Howard Stern

    3

    Long before Stern became a judge on America's Got Talent, he was entertaining New Yorkers, and later the nation, as a radio talk show host infamous for breaking barriers -- often with decidedly off-color humor. After exposing his life in the memoir Private Parts, the shock jock announced his candidacy for governor of New York. Stern withdrew his nomination five months after the campaign began because he didn't want to reveal his income, a legal requirement. "It's none of your business," he said.

  • Jerry Springer

    4

    Many performers use their fame to help gain entry into the political arena. Springer took another route entirely. The actor and host of The Jerry Springer Show (1991-2015) served his country before being known for having talk show guests duke it out in the studio. After losing a bid for congress in 1970, Springer became a Cincinnati city councilman in 1971. A little tango with a prostitute ended that run. He tried to become Ohio's governor in 1982, but didn't make it past the primaries.

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  • Donald Trump

    5

    He's a businessman, a TV personality, and now the forerunner among Republicans hoping to become the next president of the United States. Will he win the primary and the general election? It's too early to tell, but he's setting his political sights high -- way high. 

  • Roseanne Barr

    6

    This comedian-actress has a Golden Globe and a Daytime Emmy in her arsenal, but she couldn't win an election. A few years after her highly successful sitcom, Roseanne, ended, Barr set a new bar for herself: to become president of the United States. Her party? Peace and Freedom, to which she fled after losing the Green Party nomination. 

  • Ronald Reagan

    7

    By the time he was sworn in as president of the United States in 1981, Reagan had two audiences: those who knew him as an actor and those who knew him as a politician. The Gipper didn't sit still between Bedtime for Bonzo and the White House, of course. He served as governor of California from 1967 to 1975. He tried for the presidential nomination in 1976, but lost in the primary to Gerald Ford. Four years later, he had better success, winning not just one term, but two.

  • Fred Thompson

    8

    For five years, we saw Thompson in a position of authority as D.A. Arthur Branch in Law & Order. That wasn't enough law and order for the ambitious actor. Before his TV gig, Thompson had been a U.S. senator from Tennessee. He was even involved in the Watergate hearings. The Republican swapped fiction for reality in 2007, leaving acting to run for president. He fared poorly in the primaries and dropped out. But at least Thompson got to play President Ulysses S. Grant in the 2007 TV film, Burn My Heart at Wounded Knee.

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  • Clay Aiken

    9

    American Idol earned Aiken recording contracts, which led to book deals, Broadway performances and TV specials. Public service was next. He ran for Congress in 2014, hoping to fill North Carolina's 2nd congressional district seat. He won the Democratic primary but not the general election.

  • Steven Michael Quezada

    10

    Life imitates art, at least in Quezada's case. As DEA agent Steven Gomez in TV's wildly popular Breaking Bad, "Gomie" tried to make New Mexico a better place. In 2013 the Albuquerque native was elected to the city's school board. Now the actor is reaching higher as he vies for a county commissioner seat in 2016. 

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger

    11

    First the Austrian native drew an international audience for his bodybuilding feats. Then he became the terminator, Conan the barbarian, and more Hollywood characters before becoming California's governor in 2003. His memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, will be published in the fall of 2015.

  • Jesse Ventura

    12

    With a nickname like "The Body," you can bet that Ventura stood out in a room, especially as a wrestler. One can only make money inside the ring for so long, though, so in 1986 the former James George Janos tried acting, then governing. He was elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 1990, then governor of Minnesota in 1999. Ventura held the latter position for four years. That's some body of work.

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  • George Takei

    13

    For fans of Star Trek, Takei will forever be Hikaru Sulu. Yet the actor and gay activist ran for Los Angeles City Council in the early '70s. After losing, he was appointed to the Southern California Rapid Transit Disctrict, where he helped create the city's subway system. 

  • Bill Bradley

    14

    At 6'5", it's no shocker that Bill Bradley's first career was on the basketball court. After stints at Princeton and Oxford, the forward spent a decade with the New York Knicks, where he helped the team nab the NBA championship. Upon retiring his jersey, the New Jersey resident took up an entirely different challenge: running for U.S. senator. The towering ball-handler served for three terms and ran for president in the 2000 primaries. He was beat by Al Gore.

  • Al Franken

    15

    It looks as if Al Franken got the last laugh. After a long and successful career as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live, the Harvard graduate headed for Washington, D.C. The author of six books, including Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, was elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. senate in 2008 and has been there ever since.

  • Jon Runyan

    16

    This football player for the Houston Oilers played in the 1999 Super Bowl before moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles and, for a short time, the San Diego Chargers. But politics? That came once the Runyan retired the pigskin. In 2010, Runyan was elected to the U.S. Congress representing New Jersey's District 3. He was re-elected in 2012, then walked away from politics in 2014.

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  • Sonny Bono

    17

    From 1988 through 1992, Bono served as the mayor of Palm Springs, California. He lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1992 but got himself elected as a U.S. congressman in 1994. He died after a ski accident at 62.

  • Shirley Temple

    18

    With her flouncy blonde curls and spirited persona, Temple was America's darling in the 1930s and '40s. Later, with the added surname Black, she decided to serve her country instead of entertain it. She lost her only election for California's congress in 1967. But serve she did. She represented the U.S. at the United Nations, served as ambassador twice, and offered her services as chief of protocal in 1976. She died in 2014.

  • Fred Grandy

    19

    For more years than we care to admit, we watched Grandy play Gopher, the eager purser on the sappy TV show, The Love Boat. Grandy wanted to go for more than a TV career, and he succeeded. He represented Iowa as a U.S. Congressman from 1987 to 1993 -- four full terms. His political polish ran out after that. Grandy's bid for state governor in 1994 was a bust. He has had several interesting endeavors since, including serving as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International for five years.

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