10 Actors Who Became Successful Politicians

Speculation and anticipation continues to swirl around a potential challenge by actress Ashley Judd to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats are targeting McConnell, sensing that his poor approval ratings and establishment credentials might make the 30-year veteran vulnerable in 2014. Justin Barasky, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said "whoever is the nominee in Kentucky is going to be incredibly well-funded and has a good chance of beating Mitch McConnell."

Judd is keeping to a schedule of high profile events that adds fuel to the speculation. USA Today reports that this weekend she will be in Washington, D.C. where she will be the featured speaker at a forum on women's reproductive rights and receive an award for her humanitarian work in India.

Republicans have taken notice of Judd’s potential candidacy and have launched a preemptive strike against the actress. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads released an anti-Judd video ad and McConnell released a video highlighting the fact that Judd lives in Tennessee, not Kentucky.

Despite Judd’s relatively high approval ratings, state Democrats are not overly enthusiastic about a potential Judd candidacy. They note that the ultra-liberal Judd may not be able to carry a state where even the Democrats are known to be very conservative, and they fear that she may affect the party ticket. Democratic consultant Jim Cauley said Kentucky Democrats fear that Judd’s life experience doesn’t "connect with an average Kentuckian with issues like immense poverty and lack of education." Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth dismisses those claims, explaining "Everyone knows that Kentucky is her first love." Yarmuth believes a Judd candidacy will create the energy and excitement necessary to boost voter turnout and help all Democrats on the ballot.

Judd has been active in politics for years, but it is obvious that her status as a Hollywood actress has garnered most of the attention. If she were to win, she would be the latest celebrity to prove that being a successful entertainer does not preclude you from being a well-informed citizen and qualified public servant. Here is a list of 10 celebrities that went on to become elected officials.

1. George Murphy (R-Calif.), U.S. Senator (1965 – 1971):

Murphy was a song-and-dance man. As an actor, he appeared in many big-budget Hollywood musicals. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946, and received an honorary Academy Award in 1951. Murphy was the first notable U.S. actor to successfully transition into the political world.

2.Shirley Temple Black (R), Ambassador to Ghana (1974 – 1976); Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989 – 1992):

Temple is a film icon. She is the most popular child actress of all time, and is ranked 18 on the American Film Institute's list of the greatest female American screen legends of all time. Temple began acting in 1932 at age three and received international fame by the time she was five. Her popularity is such that people have spent millions on licensed products that bear her likeness. Her licensed material includes everything from photographs and dolls, to dresses, phonograph records, and CDs. Temple was receiving six-figure royalties from her endorsements by the time she was six. Here's some of her hits:

"Bill Bojangles and Shirley Temple"

 

"On The Good Ship Lollipop"

 

"Animal Crackers"

 

3. John Davis Lodge (R- Conn.), Governor of Connecticut (1951 – 1955); U.S. Congressmen (1947 – 1951):

Lodge was born into an affluent and politically connected family. His father was the poet George Cabot Lodge, and his grandfather was Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. He is the great-great-great-grandson of Senator George Cabot, and his brother Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. was a senator from Massachusetts and the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1960. Lodge played Shirley Temple’s father in The Little Colonel and co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress. He appeared with Katharine Hepburn and Joan Bennett in George Cukor’s Little Women. As a Broadway actor Lodge appeared in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine

4. Jesse Ventura (I-Minn.), Governor of Minnesota (1989 - 2003):

Ventura has a diverse background. He served on a Navy underwater demolition team and was a full patch member in the Mongols motorcycle club. He is an actor that has appeared in films such as Predator, Running Man, Demolition Man, and Batman and Robin. He is best known as "The Body," a successful pro wrestler and wrestling commentator.


5. Fred Gandy (R-Iowa), U.S. Congressman (1987 – 1995):

Gandy started out as a recurring character in the All in the Family spin-off Maude, but he is best known for his nine seasons playing "Gopher," the ship purser on The Love Boat. Gandy served four terms in Congress.

 

6. Sonny Bono (R-Calf.), U.S. Congressman (1995 – 1998)

Better known as the creative genius behind Sonny and Cher, Bono entered politics in 1988. He first served as mayor of Palm Springs, California, before serving two terms in Congress. Sonny and Cher were an American husband-wife pop music duo. They are perhaps best known for their hit song "I Got You Babe.” In the 1970s’s their top ten U.S.-based TV shows, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show made them household names. Some of their most famous hits:

"I Got You Babe"

 

"All I Ever Need Is You"

 

"The Beat Goes On"

 

Sonny and Cher - Blooper Outtake

 

Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour - Opening Skit

 

7. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), U.S. Senator (1994 – 2003):

Photo: Clarence Darrow (Brian Dennehy) and William Jennings Bryan (Sen. Fred Thompson)

Thompson is a trained lawyer and a former elected official, and in a case of art imitating life, he played one on TV’s Law and Order. Thompson has an extensive film resume but is best known for the role of District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law and Order. Thompson was an investigating attorney for the Senate Watergate Committee, ran for President in 2008, and served two terms as a United States Senator.

8. Al Franken (D-Minn.), U.S. Senator (2009 – present):

Franken was one of the original writers and performers for Saturday Night Live. He received seven Emmy nominations three awards for his television writing and producing. Franken’s "Stuart Smalley" character was one of the most popular on SNL. He is a best-selling comic author, having written six books. Franken hosted a nationally syndicated political talk radio show before running for office.

 

9. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calf.), Governor of California (2003 – 2011):

The "Governator" parlayed a mega-successful career as an international film star to two terms as Governor of California. Schwarzenegger is arguably the greatest bodybuilder in history. He won the Mr. Olympia title seven times, including six years in a row from 1970 through 1975. His bodybuilding prowess was immortalized in the film Pumping Iron. Schwarzenegger then moved to movies, where he became one of the all-time box office greats, establishing himself as one of the greatest action film stars in history. His first box-office hot was as the comic book character Conan the Barbarian but, his signature role came when he starred in director James Cameron's science fiction thriller film The Terminator.

10. Ronald Reagan (R-Calf.), Governor of California (1967 – 1975); 40th President of the United States, (1981 -1989):

Reagan spent two decades in entertainment, including radio and film. He was the host of General Electric Theater from 1954 -1962. His most well-known role was in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), where he played the role of Notre Dame halfback George "the Gipper" Gipp. Reagan first became involved in politics as a union official for the Screen Actors Guild. He was elected to the Board of Directors in 1941 and served as vice president in 1946. He was elected to seven one-year terms from 1947 to 1952 and in 1959, kicking off a political career that advanced to ... well, you know.