Matthew McConaughey says he will not run for Texas governor

The actor Matthew McConaughey will not run for Texas governor, removing one potential obstacle from the path of Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman and candidate for Senate and president now seeking to defeat the Republican Greg Abbott.

McConaughey, 52 and the star of Free State of Jones, Dallas Buyers Club (for which he won an Oscar), Magic Mike, many other movies and the HBO smash True Detective, had long been reported to be on the verge of running, potentially as an independent.

He made the announcement that he would not in a short video posted to social media on Sunday night, two weeks before the deadline to declare.

“Hey everybody,” he began, “McConaughey here.

“For past two years, I’ve been working on the answer to the question of how I can be most useful in this life. Useful to myself, useful to my family and to the most amount of people. One category service I’ve been exploring is politics, considering a run for governor in Texas.”

McConaughey then delivered a short homily about “sharing our share”, children as “our greatest asset”, service and leadership – whether as “a politician, a star quarterback, a mother, father, husband, wife, brother, friend, mentor or teacher”.

But as for running for governor, he said: “As a simple kid born in the little town of Uvalde, Texas, it never occurred to me that I would one day be considered for political leadership. It’s a humbling and inspiring path to ponder. It is also a path that I’m choosing not to take at this moment.”

Instead, McConaughey said, he would look to support “businesses and foundations that I believe are leaders, establishments that I believe are creating pathways for people to succeed in life, organizations that have a mission to serve and build trust and dream”.

McConaughey has published a bestselling memoir-cum-self-help book, Greenlights, which will get a sequel in December. Only last week, in an interview to promote such works, he teased the New York Times. Asked why he had not committed to run or said he would not, he said: “It’s a real dance.

“Five years ago if you’d have said, ‘Matthew, I think you ought to run for governor of Texas,’ I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go, ‘Why’d you say so?’ What can you do and what can you not do? Do my gifts fit into being effective as a politician? Good question. Because I’m not historically a politico. I’m a folk-singing philosopher-poet who has a gift for storytelling, inspiration. But as the CEO of the state or a nation, you have to administrate. You have to set up laws.”

Pressed, he told the paper “it would be untrue for me to go ‘I’m not’ until I say I’m not”.

On Sunday, he said he was not. To O’Rourke, seeking to stop Abbott winning a third term, the decision may come as a relief. Though McConaughey’s policies or views were not clear, some thought would have had a good chance to win.

Keir Murray, a Texas political consultant, told the Hollywood Reporter to be “a true outsider candidate, it’s actually advantageous”. But Murray also warned that though McConaughey had “a positive and favorable brand, as soon as you dip your toe in the political pool people start to hate you.

“Does he want to change that brand and damage it? Because that’s inevitable.”

Among Democrats, in an impression backed up by polling, many feared McConaughey as a vote-splitter in a contest offering an otherwise reasonable chance to take down Abbott. The Republican has presided over missteps in Covid policy and a power grid failure which cost lives during frigid February weather.

Abbott is also a hardline conservative on issues including abortion and voting rights, signing draconian laws Democrats hope are out of synch with a changing state population. But though Texas has become less ruby Republican red, it has not yet delivered any big prizes to the blue side of the ledger.

Signing off his video with a vigorous salute, McConaughey said: “To the politicians, to the leaders and servants out there, the leader and servant in each one of us, cheers to you. The freedom to be you, freedom to be me. And to our responsibility to be us. In the mean times, at all times and until next time: Just keep livin’.”