- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Lynn Swann, the former Pittsburgh Steelers football star and ABC Sports commentator, said yesterday he is running for the Republican nomination for governor of Pennsylvania and the right to take on Democrat Edward G. Rendell, who is seeking a second term.

Mr. Swann, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, is making his first run for elective office at a time when Mr. Rendell’s political popularity has sagged as a result of economic discontent among the voters and rising property taxes that the governor promised to fix in his first term.

If Mr. Swann is elected, he would become Pennsylvania’s first black governor.

The 53-year-old former wide receiver, who has served President Bush as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, made his announcement at a rally in Pittsburgh last night before the beginning of an expected three-day, six-city campaign tour of the state today.

After being introduced by former teammate and fellow Hall-of-Famer Mel Blount, Mr. Swann won cheers from the rally of about 500 people by saying: “Tonight, Lynn Swann is running for governor, and that hat is in the ring.”

Little is know about where Mr. Swann stands on most issues, beyond a staunch pro-life position and a pledge to reform the state’s escalating property taxes.

“I think Pennsylvanians are tired of the lack of getting things done. I want a change,” he has said.

Three other Republicans are vying for the party nod, including former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III, state Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola and retired business advocate Jim Panyard. Early polls show Mr. Swann and Mr. Scranton virtually tied for first place.

But pollsters and political strategists said yesterday that while Mr. Rendell’s poll standing has slumped, unseating a political heavyweight like him will be an uphill climb for Republicans.

“His polls have definitely weakened because, one, he had signed the legislative pay-raise bill last year, which was highly unpopular; and, two, he failed to deliver on his promise to lower property taxes,” said Clay Richards of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Mr. Rendell’s job-approval ratings had fallen to 46 percent last October as a result of the state government pay-raise bill, but have climbed back up to 51 percent by year’s end, Mr. Richards said.

“The drop in his polls was a direct reflection of the widely controversial pay-raise bill that he signed into law in July and that was repealed in November, largely due to the public outcry,” said Rep. T.J. Rooney, the state Democratic chairman.

Still, Republican polls late last year found the gubernatorial contest surprisingly tight. A state poll by Strategic Vision showed both Mr. Swann and Mr. Scranton within the margin of error in head-to-head matchups with Mr. Rendell.

“The same electorate that is unhappy with [Pennsylvania’s] GOP Sen. Rick Santorum appears to have some qualms with Rendell,” elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg said in his year-end report on the nation’s governorship races.

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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