Matthew McConaughey running as Texas governor certainly contains plenty of appeal although who knows how serious he is about the plan. Karen wrote on POLITICO’s speculation regarding the actor’s apparent interest in the governor’s mansion in 2022 but, as a fellow Texan, I wanted to slip in my own half-penny of thought.
A lot depends on whether McConaughey runs as a Democrat, a third party like Libertarian, or an Independent. He’d need five-thousand signatures to even make the ballot if he chooses the latter routes due to Texas law on elections. That’s an easy make for a man of McConaughey’s stature, if he goes with it. A Democratic run eschews the signature need but means nothing in a contested primary, particularly should ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro or ex-Congressman Beto O’Rourke hop in the race.
There’s more to a political run than name value, as Donald Trump, Cynthia Nixon, and Arnold Schwarzenegger proved in their runs for office. McConaughey would need to clearly explain his positions on multiple fronts outside of just running as “Matthew McConaughey the great uniter,” although there is a certain appeal in that moniker. Marijuana legalization is probably on the table, but one would think he’d need to explain his position on guns and defend comments at the 2018 March for Our Lives event in Austin calling for a so-called assault weapons ban and magazine limits. The pot stance appeals to libertarians, but the gun comments are a no go (Remember, Ann Richards lost to George W. Bush in 1994 because she vetoed a conceal carry bill). He’d also have to explain positions on property taxes, spending in general, and school funding – the former being more important from an every day standpoint than the latter two.
One thing particularly irksome regarding this idea of a McConaughey run is that it’d hurt Democrat chances of winning the Governor’s Mansion (this means you, Paul Begala). POLITCO cited the 2006 Texas election where Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn brought in a combined 30% of the vote, but it’s ridiculous to suggest those votes kept Democrat Chris Bell from winning. Friedman ran as a bit of a centrist while Strayhorn was more conservative, and a former Republican (Full disclosure: I signed a Friedman petition in 2006, but voted Strayhorn in the election). It’s possible Bell would have gotten some Strayhorn/Friendman votes but not the entire lot. You’d probably see some Strayhorn votes go to Perry, others go to the Libertarian, and the rest stay home. This idea third party votes would automatically pick one of the major parties needs to die in a Dumpster fire extinguished by falling off a waterfall. It’s just not true, no matter how often people repeat it.
McConaughey in the Texas governor’s race would be entertaining, for sure, especially during debates. He casts a different demeanor than anyone else as a real laid-back dude. I do think he’d have a better shot than Friedman or Strayhorn based on name value, but it really depends on whether he’s able to explain his positions without turning off voters.
McConaughey seems like a smart dude, so why not run for governor? It might beat the alternatives. Just call me skeptical, at the moment.