“I am not — until I am,” McConaughey told NPR last month of a gubernatorial run.
McConaughey’s announcement comes ahead of the state’s Dec. 13 filing deadline and two weeks after Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who ran for president and Senate, announced his bid to unseat GOP incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The primary election will take place on March 1.
Even as he considered a run, McConaughey gave few clues about what kind of leader he would be. The self-described “philosopher poet statesman” never revealed which party he would have run under, and in interviews he tended not to take strong positions on big issues. Asked during an NPR interview about his position on a new Texas law banning abortions six weeks into pregnancy, McConaughey said he was “more of a choose guy."
Earlier this month, McConaughey drew attention after he said he would not mandate vaccinating young children against the coronavirus — and that his two youngest hadn’t been immunized. The statements prompted Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to strongly recommend coronavirus vaccines for young children.
But McConaughey’s vague political profile could work to his advantage should he decide to run for public office, according to observers.
“Traditional political folks will criticize him by saying that nobody knows where he stands,” Texas political consultant Keir Murray told the Hollywood Reporter. “But for a true outsider candidate, it’s actually advantageous. It’s a blank canvas to paint a candidacy, and it’s harder to be defined out of the gate — unlike Beto, who has a record of his positions.”
In a September Quinnipiac University poll of Texas registered voters, a quarter of respondents said McConaughey would make a good governor while nearly half said he would not. In an October poll by the University of Texas at Austin, 35 percent of respondents had a “very favorable” and “somewhat favorable” view of McConaughey, while 24 percent had a “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” view of the candidate. Twenty-nine percent of those polled had “neither favorable nor unfavorable” views of the actor.
During his announcement on Sunday, flanked by American and Texan flags, McConaughey explained that he had spent the past two years deciding “how I can be most useful in this life going forward.” One option he considered is politics — specifically a run for Texas governor, he said.
After “listening,” “measuring” and “studying Texas politics and American politics,” McConaughey said he’s learned that “we have some problems we need to fix — that our politics needs new purpose … that we got to start shining a light on our shared values.”
He referenced the divisive state of U.S. politics and called on leaders — those in elective office along with athletes, parents, teachers and others — to put the greater good ahead of self-interests.
“Great leaders serve,” he said, adding: “Can we give ourselves more reasons to trust each other first instead of last? That’s the leadership that we need.”
But rather than fixing those problems from the governor’s office, McConaughey said he would invest in “entrepreneurs, businesses and foundations” that he believes can make those changes.