Schwarzenegger will run for governor after all. Despite earlier spin from his camp, he tells Leno he plans to go to Sacramento and ''clean house''

By Gary Susman
August 07, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Michael Germana UPI/NewsCom

Despite a week of denials from his advisors, Arnold Schwarzenegger really does want to be the Governator. He announced his candidacy Wednesday night during a taping of Jay Leno’s ”Tonight Show.” He called the decision to run in the recall election for California governor the toughest decision he’s made since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978.

”The politicians are fiddling, fumbling and failing,” he told the ”Tonight” audience. Citing the current governor, Schwarzenegger said, ”The man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. 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.” Later, at a post-show press conference, he said, ”I will go to Sacramento and clean house,” departing with the inevitable, ”I’ll be back.”

Schwarzenegger’s aides had been saying for a week that he was not likely to run, citing his desire to spend more time with his four kids and the objections of his wife, NBC newswoman Maria Shriver. (Left unmentioned were the actor’s pending movie commitments, which are now up in the air.) Schwarzenegger said, however, that Shriver supported his decision, despite being a member of the Kennedy family. ”Yes, she’s a Democrat,” he said, ”and this is the first time she’s going to vote for a Republican.”

The 56-year-old actor knows he has a tough fight ahead. Not only does he expect to be the subject of negative campaigning — ”I know they’re going to throw everything at me, [that] I have no experience, [that] I’m a womanizer and a terrible guy,” he said — but he also faces dozens of potential opponents, many of them fellow celebrities (though no one as well-known as he is). Among those who’ve filed papers to run are former ”Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman, TV pundit Arianna Huffington, porn mogul Larry Flynt, comic and sitcom star D.L. Hughley, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher, porn actress Mary Carey, Los Angeles billboard pinup Angelyne, and ”Bat Boy: The Musical” playwright Brian Flemming.