SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sporting alligator-skin cowboy boots and a bright red campaign cap, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, a flamboyant Los Angeles socialite and eighth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor, officially joined the California governor's race on Wednesday.
Von Anhalt's political platform includes legalizing marijuana and prostitution, lifting the import ban on Cuban cigars, then taxing them all.
He said he decided to seek office by watching the mistakes of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I want to make life good again, like it was 26 years ago when I came to California," said the German-born von Anhalt, who once claimed he might have fathered a child with former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.
Von Anhalt, 65, flew to Sacramento from his home in the Bel Air area of Los Angeles to file his candidate papers. He was accompanied by several campaign aides.
He became the only independent in a field that includes Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner and the presumed Democratic candidate, Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Von Anhalt said imposing sin taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and prostitution would help bring back the good life in California and stabilize its wobbly finances. He also wants to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage if elected.
"I don't believe in same-sex marriage," he said. "But on the other hand, the constitution says equal rights for every American."
A former Republican, von Anhalt described Whitman as someone who lacks innovative ideas and the "charm" required for political success. He had nothing but praise for Brown.
"If he announces, he's probably going to win," von Anhalt said. "He's a tough guy – tough on crime – and he's also a gentleman."
Von Anhalt was born Hans Robert Lichtenberg and claims to have grown up poor in Germany, the son of a policeman.
His 1986 marriage to Gabor, now 93, was his seventh. Before he met her, he worked as a bank clerk, screenwriter and sauna manager, acquiring the royal title along the way. After his parents died, he said he was adopted by a German princess who gave him the title of Prince Frederic von Anhalt of Munich, the Duke of Saxony.
Some British news reports say he merely paid for it.
However he came to have the title, von Anhalt said all that matters now is turning around the nation's most populous state.
Unlike most politicians, von Anhalt said, he does not make promises he can't keep. He does, however, have a history of making headline-grabbing claims he can't always back up.
In 2007, he claimed to have had a decade-long affair with Anna Nicole Smith and declared that he may be the father of her baby daughter. Paternity tests later disproved that.
That same year, police found von Anhalt naked behind the wheel of his Rolls Royce Phantom after he claimed he was mugged by three women.
"I went through lots of things, lots of scandals, but that was yesterday, that's old news," he said a day before filing his candidate papers. "Look at what Bill Clinton did in the White House. That was bad, but he got away with it. America gives you a break."
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