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Schwarzenegger announces bid for governor

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, left, jokes with host Jay Leno during taping of "The Tonight Show" in Burbank, California.

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Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger announces he will enter the race for governor of California
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Who would you vote for as governor of California?
The "Terminator"
A "Smut-peddler who cares"
A melon-smashing comedian
A socialite-turned-columnist
A "Diff'rent Strokes" actor
None of the above

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- After dropping hints about his political ambitions, movie action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday that he will run for California governor in October's recall election.

The surprise announcement came during a Wednesday afternoon taping of NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno which was scheduled to air Wednesday night. Prior to the taping, it had been widely speculated that Schwarzenegger, 56, would announce he would not run.

The Austrian-born movie star and moderate Republican helped fuel speculation about his political ambitions this summer, just as his movie "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" was being released.

California voters will decide October 7 whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and who should replace him.

Following the taping of the show, Schwarzenegger answered questions from a crowd of reporters gathered outside the NBC studios.

"I came to the conclusion that even though there are great sacrifices to make, I felt in the end it is my duty to jump in the race," he said. "I'm the most unique candidate because I'm an outsider."

Schwarzenegger tried to strike a populist tone.

"I know the people of California want better leadership, they want great leadership," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, if you're young or old. Everyone is welcome. As you know I'm an immigrant. I came over here as an immigrant and what gave me the opportunities, what made me be able to be here today is the open arms of Americans."

Although Schwarzenegger has never before sought political office, his fame and fortune are expected to make him a formidable candidate against a crowded field of lesser-knowns in an abbreviated two-month campaign.

At openings for his movie, Schwarzenegger quipped about his "terminator" role and Davis' future, and he has been very critical of the Democratic incumbent.

The actor is married to a member of America's most prominent Democratic political family -- Maria Shriver, a niece of President John F. Kennedy.

The announcement came amid a flurry of such news in what has become a race among an increasingly odd mix of candidates. The filing deadline is Saturday and so far the Secretary of State has recorded 356 official notices of candidacy. There are another 155 notices the office has received that are unofficial.

Gary Coleman, who played Arnold Drummond in the 1980s sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes," entered the race Wednesday. (Full story)

However, Coleman, spoke shortly after Schwarzenegger's announcement and predicted that Schwarzenegger would win. Coleman said he would vote for the "Terminator."

Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman

"Now that Arnold is in the race, there is no race. Gray Davis needs to pack his bags," he said. "I'm going to stay in the race, but I'm not going to campaign."

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt has announced his bid for the governor's office.

Flynt suggested as his slogan "Vote for a Smut-Peddler Who Cares" and said he would expand gaming regulations to allow private casinos to have slot machines, which could be taxed by the state at 30 percent.

Others who have filed with the state in order to receive campaign documents include the melon-smashing comedian Gallagher, comedian D.L. Hughley and Angelyne, a model who made herself famous in southern California by putting her picture on billboards.

Dick Rosengarten, editor and publisher of California Political Week, told CNN Wednesday that the California race was drawing so many candidates it was in danger of becoming a farce.

"You know what they say about politics," Rosengarten said. "It's show business for ugly people."

start quoteYou know what they say about politics. It's show business for ugly people.end quote
-- Dick Rosengarten

Earlier Wednesday, socialite-turned-columnist Arianna Huffington threw her hat into the ring.

Huffington has never held public office, but is well-known through her commentaries on radio and television.

Huffington, an author and a political Independent, announced her decision before supporters gathered in Los Angeles, California.

"I'm not, to say the least, a conventional candidate," Huffington said, taking note of her Greek accent. But, she said, "If we keep electing the same kind of politicians who got us into the same kind of mess, funded by the same kind of special interests, we'll never get out of this mess."

Also, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, released a written statement Wednesday, saying she would not be a candidate in the governor's race.(Full story)

Other major Republican names expected in the race include Rep. Darrell Issa of San Diego County, who helped finance the petition effort that triggered the recall; state Sen. Tom McClintock of Ventura County; and businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in the general election nine months ago.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who was considering a bid for governor, has said he would not run if Schwarzenegger did.

Huffington, 53, had said she would not be a candidate if Feinstein, one of California's most popular politicians, entered the race.

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