Gov. honors first actor to take on state’s top role

Times Staff Writer

As he prepares for next week’s election, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped in Ventura County on Monday to pay homage to the first Hollywood star to serve as the state’s top politician: Ronald Reagan.

Schwarzenegger was among 800 people, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan and former Gov. Pete Wilson, who gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Reagan’s first gubernatorial victory on Nov. 8, 1966.

Schwarzenegger, who will face Democratic challenger Phil Angelides in the Nov. 7 election, used the occasion to draw similarities between himself and Reagan. He talked about how he immigrated to California from a village in Austria, while Reagan came from a small town in Illinois.

“Politics to him wasn’t a job, it was a calling,” Schwarzenegger said. “He believed in the golden luster of the Golden State and he believed that luster could be restored.”


Schwarzenegger said Reagan was an effective governor because he worked well with legislators on both sides of the aisle, never doubted the potential of the state and its residents, and tried to take the high road in political discourse, avoiding personal attacks.

Addressing Nancy Reagan, who was seated in the front row, Schwarzenegger told the president’s widow that she would always be considered political royalty.

“You remain a first lady in our hearts,” the governor said. “President Reagan could not have had a better partner in life, or in politics.”

Others in attendance included current and former California first ladies Maria Shriver and Gayle Wilson.

Also on Monday, the Reagan Library unsealed 152,000 archival papers from Reagan’s eight years as governor.

The library, which celebrates its 15th anniversary Saturday, has received more than 3.5 million visitors since it opened in 1991. More than 500,000 people visited in the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, the best year to date, said Melissa Giller, a library spokeswoman.