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Schwarzenegger Decides Not to Run for Governor in 2002

GOP: The actor cites family and film obligations but sees himself entering politics some day.

April 25, 2001|MARK Z. BARABAK | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

After months of consideration, Arnold Schwarzenegger opted out of the race for California governor Tuesday, saying his film career and family take precedence over any wish to run.

"I have to be selfless at this point . . . and take care of those things," the actor said in announcing his decision.

"The movie projects came together," he said of his film obligations. Therefore, he said, "I have to keep up my end of the deal. It's not like it could have gone this way or that."

Schwarzenegger revealed his decision in a lengthy telephone interview from his home in Pacific Palisades. He said he was merely postponing a plunge into politics until "some other time," when his four children, ages 3 to 11, are older.

His decision will make the 2002 governor's race a decidedly less glamorous affair, unless the lineup of hopefuls changes.

"It eliminates the Jesse Ventura scenario, the person who gets elected on star power irrespective of politics," said UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain. "It puts you back into the more mundane class of people . . . as likely Republican candidates."

With Schwarzenegger stepping aside, the GOP field, for now, is left to Secretary of State Bill Jones, the sole declared candidate, and William E. Simon Jr., a Los Angeles investment banker who is still exploring the race. Incumbent Democrat Gray Davis is widely expected to seek a second term and so far faces no serious party challenge.

Schwarzenegger, 53, presented an intriguing political package, and not just because of his worldwide celebrity and ability to pour millions of dollars into a campaign.

His moderate stances on gun control and abortion rights match the views of most California voters. But his positions may have alienated core conservatives, who tend to dominate Republican primaries, meaning that his nomination was not assured.

Even so, many viewed Schwarzenegger as the kind of candidate the struggling California GOP needs to start winning statewide elections again.

"He could have gotten beyond the burden of the Republican label," said Kevin Spillane, a party strategist in Sacramento. "Right now, our biggest problems are with minorities, women voters, 'new economy' types. As a moderate on social issues, an immigrant himself and someone with a nonpolitical image, Arnold would have been able to appeal to all of those groups."

But even Spillane conceded that the big question facing Schwarzenegger was whether voters would have taken him seriously.

The track record for celebrities seeking statewide office in Sacramento has not been good. In fact, Ronald Reagan was the last Hollywood personality to make the leap, and that was 35 years ago.

Over the years, Schwarzenegger has campaigned for a number of GOP candidates and causes. He has also been active in the Inner-City Games Foundation, an organization he founded that offers Olympic-style sporting events as a way of keeping urban youth away from gangs and drug abuse.

The Austrian-born actor has never sought political office, and his political naivete was at times evident before his announcement Tuesday evening.

Last month, a Hollywood publicist ruled Schwarzenegger out of the governor's race, citing family and film obligations that would keep the actor tied up through 2004. The next day, however, the publicist issued a retraction, saying the movie star's mind was "not made up."

As Schwarzenegger contemplated his candidacy, he was faced with published reports alleging a history of unseemly behavior toward women. Schwarzenegger, who is married to television newswoman Maria Shriver, dismissed the allegations Tuesday as "trash" and "stupid accusations."

For now, he said, he will focus on completing a sequel to the film "True Lies" and then begin production of "Terminator III" around September.

"I feel great doing the movies, and I would have felt great doing the governor's race," he said. "I'm in a most wonderful position."

Although some Republicans were disappointed by Schwarzenegger's decision, Democrats said it was too soon for the governor to feel much relief.

"Davis' problems are about the energy crisis and not really who his potential opponent is going to be," said Bill Carrick, a Democratic strategist who is not affiliated with the governor's campaign. "Republicans will continue to be very bold in recruiting and, as Arnold shows, they're willing to consider some decidedly un-Republican ideas to field a competitive candidate."

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