On Monday, Cooper Hefner, media executive and son of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, announced that he would be running for a California Senate seat in 2022.
‘Cooper Hefner for California Senate’ launches
According to his exploratory committee, Hefner will be running as a Democrat in the 30th Senate District, which comprises of west-central Los Angeles, including downtown LA, Culver City, Inglewood, and Westmont. The incumbent, Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), will be term limited and has announced a run for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Hefner will come into the election with no political or elected position experience. Hefner was the Chief Creative Officer of Playboy between 2016 and 2019, filling the role that his father had held until his retirement. There, he had defended the companies use of nude images and introduced the first transgender model in company history. After leaving the company and briefly trying to start his own called Hefpost, Cooper then joined the Air Force late last year. In addition to serving in the Air Force Reserve, Hefner is also currently a professor at Chapman University and is a supporter of both Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Hefner explained that his decision to run was based on advocacy and a sense of public service.
“It’s important for me to differentiate between a career politician and a public servant genuinely interested in advocating and working for people,” noted Hefner. “I’m not engaging in this to be a career politician. I’m not walking down this road to serve myself. I am concerned about my community and our government institutions, now more than ever before. The last several years I have asked myself, ‘What more can I do for others?’ For me, that answer manifested in working with local and national NGO’s to develop organizational strategy and as of last year serving as an Airman in the United States Air Force Reserve; however, I felt compelled to do more. It became clear that working to serve the public good and engaging in delivering innovative solutions to the complex problems facing our communities was the right road for me.”
In a press release, Hefner added to this, saying “I really don’t understand how you can wake up every day and see the challenges that we’re facing in the world and not ask yourself what more you can do. I mean, this is certainly the time to figure out how to engage in solving the challenges our communities are facing.”
A celebrity run for office
However, critics have noted that Hefner’s run will have some issues. Many have pointed to his platform, where Hefner shows progressive and left of center leanings towards healthcare, job growth, public safety reform, housing and homelessness, climate change, education, immigration, criminal justice, technology usage, and mental health.
“Hefner’s current platform reads just like a California talking points list of 2019 and 2020,” said Cathy Dougal, a campaign researcher who specializes in celebrities who run for office, in an interview with the Globe. “You really need to read through it to find the more dividing things. Like, for example, on his health care stance, he wants to have the state help pay for doctors who go to med school and forgive their loans, in addition to expansions of public healthcare. This is a minefield. Will these doctors have to stay and work in California to get the money off? Will only in-state students qualify? It’s a mess.
“In other areas he’s just very vague and gives him the movement to change his mind later on.
“This election is still more than two years away, and I think he announced way too early. Widespread name recognition is a great tool to use, but it only works for around three months before people really begin analyzing everything they’re saying. Sonny Bono did this when running for Mayor of Palm Springs in the late 80’s, essentially entering in the last possible days he could because he was angry over all the red tape in the city. And that led to a career in Congress. Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the recall race for Governor in 2003 only two months beforehand. Ronald Reagan of course ran in 1966 for the Republican Governor nomination on a reduced time-scale before being elected over Pat Brown. Many astronauts who ran were late entrants too, like John Glenn when he first ran for the Senate in Ohio.
“Hefner just ruined one of his more powerful tools at his disposal, because we now have two years of scrutiny for him, instead of two months of scrutiny through a haze of press honeymoon. He has business, education, and military experience, plus his bona fides in the LGBT community. But he’s coming in young with no real higher office or position, and he’ll have to prove himself by 2022. It’s a tall order for someone who isn’t even 30 yet.”
Hefner is expected elaborate more on his election plans in the coming months.
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