Several hundred people greeted Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday when he entered the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder’s Office to pick up the petition papers needed to enter the race for governor of California.
The actor waded through a gantlet of well wishers, shaking hands and signing autographs. When one woman asked what he would do as governor, he replied: “Clean house! Clean house!” pumping his fist in the air.
“Everything I ever did showed great leadership,” he said later. “They said these are things that can never be done — that an Austrian farm boy can come from Austria and make it in the movies. They said we can’t pronounce your name and you can’t speak English well and your body is overdeveloped… and now I am highest paid entertainer in the world.”
His candidacy, announced Wednesday on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” became the talk of the nation Thursday. Yet even Arnold’s closest friends and working associates had no inkling of this decision. The supposition is that he made up his mind very recently. But he is a very political animal.
Associates working with him on “Terminator 3” noticed a steady stream of politicos visiting the set. He is very compartmentalized, however — never talking about politics with his “movie people.” Friends note however, that he has spent lots of time with the Bush family and expect that Bush senior will be campaigning for him.
“He’s a very adept at organizing and I think he wanted time to do it right, said Ivan Reitman, who directed Schwarzenegger in four pix including “Kindergarten Cop.” “He knows he can’t be a movie star on the job. This is a real change in his (and his family’s) life. I think (wife Maria Shriver) will give him (as governor) a lot of benefits.”
Friends feel he’ll spend as much as $15 million of his own money on the campaign. Two people who saw him only last week stated that he said nothing about the recall election. Friends say he is in favor of gun control and is pro choice, and doubt that he would ever bend those positions.
“He’s a very honest guy and will say what he thinks during the campaign,” one associate said. “It will be immensely entertaining.”
Schwarzenegger is no stranger to Republican politicos — from presidents on down. A.C. Lyles, longtime, unofficial Republican representative in Hollywood, recalls Arnold’s friendships with Reagan and both Bushes. “He was always welcome at the White House whenever he was in Washington.” Lyles recalled.
He made many trips throughout California on behalf of Gov. Peter Wilson prior to his election, thus getting a preview of how to campaign statewide.
Among the film projects awaiting the outcome of Schwarzenegger’s careers is WB’s remake of “Westworld,” which he was slated to star in and produce with Jerry Weintraub. He’s also in continued negotiations for New Line’s “Big Sir.”
For days, several Democratic members of Congress from California have urged other party members to get on the Oct. 7 ballot to offer an alternative should the unpopular Davis lose. The ballot will ask voters if they want to recall Davis and then list alternative candidates for the job.
“If it weren’t so sad it would be laughable,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said on Wednesday she would not run, told CNN. “It is a carnival and it is going to end up being extremely factious.”
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante broke the taboo on a run now opens the way for other Democrats. The state’s Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, a Democrat, also said he would run.
The lieutenant governor joked about his stocky, balding appearance in contrast to Schwarzenegger’s action figure. “Ever see the movie ‘Twins’? I guess I’m Danny DeVito,” he said.
(Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.)