— Arnold Schwarzenegger made it official today, filing his candidacy papers in California's gubernatorial recall election and vowing to terminate everything that's ailing the Golden State.
The former Mr. Universe and perpetual action hero kept Californians, Gov. Gray Davis, the Republican Party and national political reporters in suspense all day Wednesday before finally revealing during a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he will run for governor in the California recall election.
Today, as hundreds of his fans and potential voters looked on, he arrived at the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office and filed candidacy papers.
"Today is the first step toward bring[ing] the government back to the people," Schwarzenegger said, amid cheers from the crowd. The Austrian-born actor stressed that it was time to put the public's interests ahead of self interests and "bring businesses back to California."
"The first and most important thing that we have to do is we have to overhaul our economic engine in California," he said. "We have to bring back businesses to California and to make sure that everyone in California has a great job.
Schwarzenegger cited the state's $38 billion deficit and an education system that he described as "the last in the country" as some of the reasons motivating him to run. He also spoke out against special interest groups.
"We have to always have public interest first and self-interests as an end," Schwarzenegger continued. "What we have right now in Sacramento is self-interest first — self-interest of the politicians, self-interest of special interest groups — and we have to reverse all that."
Painting himself as both an immigrant and a Hollywood success story, Schwarzenegger asserted that he could not be bought by special interest groups, because he's simply too rich.
"There were times people say it could never be done, that an Austrian farmboy can come over to America and get into the movie business and be successful in the movie business. They said, 'We cannot pronounce your name, you cannot speak English well, and your body's overdeveloped.' And you know what happened? I became the highest-paid entertainer in the world, OK?"
A Strange Slate of Candidates
And Schwarzenegger is not the only celebrity throwing his hat into the ring.
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, comedian Gallagher and actor Gary Coleman, the pint-sized star of the 1980s' sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, have all said they plan to run.
Political commentator Arianna Huffington jumped into the race on Wednesday, and former baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, a Republican, joined the list of potential candidates today.
Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock has filed papers to run, and 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon is mulling a run.
Another Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa, surprised his supporters today by announcing he would not run. Issa largely financed the initial recall signature-gathering with his own money.
He had been expected to announce his candidacy and file papers in San Diego today, but standing outside the Registrar of Voters' office in San Diego, Issa broke into tears as he announced he would continue to support the recall and retain his congressional seat in so he can work toward peace in the Middle East.
"I will continue with my wife's support to fund the effort to recall Gov. Davis and when it's over we will return to Congress to support President Bush's effort for Middle East peace," Issa said.
Issa said his move was not influenced by Schwarzenegger's decision to get into the race.
"It has nothing to do with Schwarzenegger's decision, other than I needed to know that there were several strong candidates," he said.
Apparently nothing will block this diverse group of candidates from pursuing the guburnatorial seat. This evening, the California Supreme Court — a panel of six Republicans and one Democrat — announced that it would not intervene in the recall election and dismissed the legal challenges to the Oct. 7 showdown.
Schwarzenegger's announcement came as a surprise, as he had told many people last week that he didn't plan to run. He reportedly held many meetings over the last few weeks with his friend and neighbor, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, to discuss whether one of them would enter the race.
Riordan, who had said he would enter the race in Schwarzenegger didn't, was said to be shocked about his friend's decision to run for governor. Later today, he announced that he was not going to enter the recall election and endorsed Schwarzenegger.
"As I have said many times, I believe Arnold Schwarzenegger is a very talented man who would make an excellent governor," Riordan said in a statement. "Today, I am endorsing Arnold for governor of California. I encourage the people of our state to give him a fair chance to express his ideas and plans. I think Arnold will win their confidence and win their votes."
Some had even speculated Wednesday that Schwarzenegger would use the Tonight Show appearance to announce Riordan's candidacy. But Schwarzenegger kept them all guessing until the last minute.
"He fooled everyone," ABCNEWS' George Stephanopoulos said on Good Morning America.
Schwarzenegger's wife, journalist and Kennedy family member Maria Shriver, had been against her husband entering the race. But according to sources, Shriver softened her opposition to a campaign when she realized how important it was for her husband to make the run.
"My wife told me that she would support me no matter what the decision is, and I decided that I would run for governor of this great state," the former body builder told reporters at Wednesday's press conference.
"If she had been against my campaigning and my going for governor, I would not have done it," he said.
High-Profile Dems Break Party Line
Democrats hoped Davis would not face any serious opposition from within his own party in the recall vote.
California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, said Wednesday she would not run. But two high-profile Democrats got into the race Wednedsay — Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the Democrat who currently serves under Davis, and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi.
A very prominent national Democrat — and Schwarzenegger's uncle by marriage — weighed in on the matter today.
"I like and respect Arnold, and I've been impressed with his efforts to promote after-school education in California and his willingness to come to Congress and the administration to fight for that program," said Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. "But, I'm a Democrat, and I don't support the recall effort. "
Shriver's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is a sister of the Massachusetts senator.
In July, a Los Angeles Times poll of registered California voters showed Schwarzenegger in fourth place behind Feinstein, undecided and Riordan. With those two candidates eliminated, and with Riordan's supporters behind him, his numbers could rise quickly.
ABCNEWS' Brooke Brower and Bryan Robinson contributed to this report.