Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had considered but rejected a run for California Governor last spring, is about to edge back into the statewide political arena. Between publicity junkets for his new action film, Collateral Damage, the star, 54, is launching a California ballot initiative to put aside $550 million in state funds for after-school programs. So far, he has spent $1 million of his own money to push the measure, which would offer grants to every state elementary and middle school. Signature gathering begins this week. Next month the actor will barnstorm across the state for the initiative. Could this be Arnie's way of saying "I'll be back"? Or could a touch of Kennedy do-goodism be rubbing off on the stalwart Republican? Schwarzenegger, who is married to a Kennedy (NBC's Maria Shriver) and may yet run for Governor in 2006, has picked a popular issue. The initiative would not aggravate California's deficit, since it takes effect only if revenues rise after an economic rebound. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, running for the G.O.P. nomination for Governor, will make the measure part of his platform. And Governor Gray Davis, who froze after-school funds, has changed direction and pledged to nearly double current spending in next year's budget.
--By Margot Roosevelt