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Could Tim Tebow Fill Fla. Seat?

Image: Could Tim Tebow Fill Fla. Seat?
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Friday, 15 Apr 2016 10:04 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Rumors are rampant that former NFLer Tim Tebow could be in the running to fill retiring Florida Rep. Ander Crenshaw's seat.

Crenshaw announced his retirement Thursday afternoon, and speculation in his Jacksonville district and soon nationwide focused on one fellow Republican as his probable heir: Tebow.

Asked on Fox and Friends two weeks ago if he would ever consider going into politics, the Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback replied: “"If there's a chance you can make a difference someday at something, then that would be intriguing."

Now, with Crenshaw’s surprise exit, talk of Jacksonville resident Tebow running for his seat dwarfs that surrounding more traditional Republican figures such as former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford.

Much of the assumption that Tebow, 28, is a cinch for election has to do with the personal charisma of the onetime University of Florida star quarterback known for kneeling in prayer before every game. But it also has to do with the fact that former athletes have possibly the best success rate getting elected to Congress.

History supports this. After retiring from the Buffalo Bills and briefly working as a TV sports commentator, Republican Jack Kemp in 1970 won a U.S. House seat that was long in Democratic hands. In 2006, Democrat Heath Schuler, onetime Heisman Trophy winner and star for the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins, unseated nine-term Rep. Charles Taylor, R-N.C. Schuler went on to win two more terms and retired in 2012.

Professional baseball also sent players to Congress. Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, famed as the left-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates, made national news with his election to Congress over Democrat Smith Bagley, top executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. Mizell was finally defeated in the so-called “Watergate Year” of 1974.

Beginning with the Detroit Tigers in 1955, Jim Bunning was a star pitcher for four other major league teams. He retired in 1971, and was later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Kentucky Republican Bunning would go on to serve as state legislator, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator from the Bluegrass State.

Even before Mizell and Bunning, professional baseball players were winning office. Pius Schwert of the New York Yankees was elected a House seat from New York in 1938 and served until his death in 1941. Schwert has the distinction of being the only former Yankee to serve in Congress.

At the 1924 Democratic Convention, former Boston Braves outfielder Fred Brown's name was placed in nomination for the presidency. Brown was then serving as governor of New Hampshire — the first Democrat in that office in 65 years. Brown later served in the U.S. Senate (1933-1939) and as comptroller general of the United States.

Basketball gave Congress Democrats Bill Bradley of the New York Knicks and Tom McMillen of the Washington Bullets. Bradley, who at Princeton was the National Basketball Association’s Player of the Year in 1965, was Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey from 1978-96 and ran for president in 2000. McMillen served as U.S. representative from Maryland from 1986-92.

About the only modern defeat for a famous athlete running for Congress was that of Bobby Richardson, onetime New York Yankees third baseman and Republican nominee against Rep. Ken Holland, D-S.C., in 1976.

“I was running against [former Yankees] Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, and Mickey Mantle, both of whom came in to campaign for Bobby,” Holland recalled to me five years after the race. “We won narrowly but it was hard.”

Get ready for the possibility of a “Rep. Tim Tebow.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

 

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