GOP Fields Pro Athletes for Several Races Nationwide

Wednesday, 18 Aug 2010 05:05 PM

By Dan Weil

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Athletes are jumping into political campaigns this year to run as Republicans.

While the Democrats have no new athletes running on their side, Bloomberg reports that the GOP has, including:
  • Former NBA basketball player Chris Dudley running for governor in Oregon
  • Former NFL football player Jon Runyan running for congress in New Jersey
  • Former NBA player Shawn Bradley running for the Utah Legislature
  • Former NFL player Keith Fimian running for Congress in Virginia
  • Former NFL player Clint Didier running for the U.S. Senate in Washington.
The entertainment world, with its liberal values, generally skews Democratic. But the sports world, with its emphasis on conservative values, generally leans Republican.

It makes perfect sense that athletes would gravitate to politics, says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University.

“Given how pumped up these guys are with the attention they get from the public, where else can you get it?” he said. “You get it in Hollywood, you can get it in professional sports, and you get it in American national politics.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who heads Republican congressional recruitment, helped bring Runyan aboard.

“A lot of people are athletes but only a few get to that high level,” McCarthy told Bloomberg. “People know him when you walk into the room.”

Runyan finds his NFL experience relevant in the political arena.

“You spend a lot of time in the NFL creating a brand of who you are and going out and selling yourself to people, and it’s much the same thing here,” he told Bloomberg.

An athletic career may give a candidate instant name recognition, but he’ll need more than that to get elected, says former Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., an NFL hall-of-famer.

“At the end of the day all the Oklahomans I talked to were more interested in my position on taxes and regulation or business and commerce than if I ran a good out-route,” he told Bloomberg.

Curt Schilling, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, is another conservative who has been talked about as a potential candidate. In a March 2008 interview with Newsmax, he expressed strong support for John McCain’s presidential bid.

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