Late last year, word got out that Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey has been mulling a bid for Texas governor. The Hollywood star hasn’t formally announced, but many Texans say it’d be a lot cooler if he did.
In fact, an April poll by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler put McConaughey ahead of Gov. Greg Abbott. While 45% of Texas voters said they’d go for McConaughey, just 33% reported they’d opt for the incumbent.
So far, McConaughey has kept quiet about his political leanings, but many Texans still say they’d enthusiastically back him.
North Texas resident Jason Berryman is an audio engineer and musician who’s been a McConaughey fan for decades. While Berryman is worried the actor might “just fall in line” with political norms, he’d hope that McConaughey would shift the state’s government from within.
“I have hope that if he were to run and if he were to be elected, that he would ultimately be like a Texas game-changer,” Berryman said, chuckling. “I would love to call him ‘The Game-changer.’”
Berryman sees a bit of himself in McConaughey, in part because they’re both native Texans who like to help the underdog. McConaughey seems humble and like he has a good work ethic, Berryman said. While he’s no doubt a millionaire, the actor once lived in an Airstream by the beach.
Plus, McConaughey is good at his craft and even developed a curriculum for a film production class at the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication, Berryman said. He believes that McConaughey could apply that type of technical aptitude to learning how to govern Texas.
Berryman's support for McConaughey further solidified after February’s winter storm, which killed more than 150 Texas residents and left millions without power. The actor could have retreated into his life of comfort, Berryman said, but he instead used his “just keep livin'” nonprofit organization to raise funds for hard-hit Texans.
“Even if you write that off on your taxes or even if you use that as a bargaining chip, whatever,” Berryman said. “You could have sat back and lit your fire … and been like, ‘Sucks to be you, nerds,’ but you didn’t. You actually got up and did something and helped other people.”
Of course, not everyone has celebrated the idea of McConaughey taking over the governor’s mansion. From what Texas bartender Morrey Taylor has read, McConaughey is a bit too conservative for his tastes.
Republicans often slam stars who speak out about their liberal political views, Taylor said. At the same time, conservatives consistently elect celebrities to political office, such as former Presidents Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan.
While Taylor believes the actor is a “pothead Republican,” he said McConaughey is by no means as far-right as Trump. The left’s best shot would be if McConaughey were to run as a third-party candidate and split the right-wing vote.
Although he’s not enthusiastic about a McConaughey bid, Taylor said it’d be better than the alternative.
“I feel that whatever party alignment he chooses, that infrastructure, those people … will get him the staff that he needs,” Taylor said. “I feel that if it does happen, he’ll probably be a decent governor — much better than Greg Abbott, anyway. Much better.”
McConaughey’s political leanings are certainly something of a mystery, and he once described his own views as “aggressively centrist.” Still, he’s a Hollywood actor who is associated with the center to the center-left of the political spectrum, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
Right now, McConaughey has an advantage in that he can be “everything to everyone,” Jones said. The actor hasn’t yet had to answer questions about where he stands on controversial issues such as abortion.
If McConaughey could somehow walk the tightrope of gaining Democratic support — and avoid being tarnished by the “Democrat” label — then he stands a chance at winning, Jones said. But at some point, McConaughey will have to ask himself: Does he really want to spend four years of his life engaged in the “less-than-exciting” duties of Texas governor?
“As a Hollywood celebrity and star, right now he can pretty much do whatever he wants, whenever he wants,” Jones said. “And that would not be the case if he was governor of Texas.”