The race for governor in California is beginning to look like an episode of “Hollywood Squares.”
After weeks of “will he or won’t he?” speculation, “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Wednesday that he is running for the state’s top office.
The 56-year-old former bodybuilder and action movie star said he made his decision because politicians in his home state are “fiddling, fumbling and failing.” The burly pop icon said he aims to bring “California back to what it once was” following what he said was the failure of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ administration.
Davis faces a special recall election on October 7 in which voters will be asked to decide whether he should be recalled less than one year into his second term. If the recall vote passes, they will then be asked to choose a replacement candidate.
“The man who is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis,” Schwarzenegger said of the governor, who is being blamed for the state’s dire financial crisis. “He is failing them terribly, and this is why he needs to be recalled, and this is why I am going to run for governor of the state of California…. This man has to go.”
The Terminator joins a field that is already crowded with a bizarre slate of semi-celebrity candidates, including former “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman, Hustler magazine publisher and porn king Larry Flynt, comedian D.L. Hughley, TV political analyst Arianna Huffington, adult film star Mary Carey, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher, T.S.O.L. frontman Jack Grisham and a busty L.A. model who is famous for being famous, Angelyne.
In all, the secretary of state has reportedly logged more than 350 notices of candidacy so far, with the deadline for filing paperwork coming up on Saturday.
Schwarzenegger said his message applies not just to California politicians, but to all American politicians: “Do your job and do it well or else… hasta la vista, baby!” At the end of a post-“Tonight Show” press conference, Schwarzenegger again quoted one of his films by warning, “I’ll be back.”
The actor, who has amassed a personal fortune through his hefty movie paychecks ($30 million for “Terminator 3”) and real estate holdings, is a native of Austria and a naturalized American citizen who has made his home in California for more than three decades. He is married to TV journalist Maria Schriver, whose mother, Eunice, is the sister of President John F. Kennedy.
The Kennedy clan is one of the country’s most influential Democratic families; Schwarzenegger is running as a Republican and he said he decided to run only after his wife pledged to support his candidacy.
The actor considered running against Davis for governor in 2002 but changed his mind. He joked to Leno that his decision to run this time was the most difficult one he’s made since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978.