Steeler Legend Lynn Swann Running for Pennsylvania Governor

Pittsburgh Steeler legend Lynn Swann has all but announced his run for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2006. Some believe he has his eyes on the White House.

Swann lacks experience, but celebrity status a plus (ESPN)

He is a man of many accomplishments: A member of the 1972 national championship football team at the University of Southern California. A Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers and owner of four Super Bowl rings. A family man and father of two boys, who lives in a million-dollar home in the plush Pittsburgh suburb of Sewickley. A respected broadcaster at ABC Sports for more than a quarter century. An entrepreneur who commands between $20,000 and $50,000 for speaking engagements. A recognized philanthropist, who has served on the boards of numerous charities.


If anyone can navigate his way through the sometimes Byzantine, 67-county Pennsylvania political system, it’s probably Swann. He has a 500-watt smile, a formidable work ethic, a firm handshake and a degree in public relations from USC’s School of Journalism.


Swann is a rare creature, indeed. The son of Democrats is an African-American Republican, something once thought to be an oxymoron. His potential ability to excite both suburban conservatives and urban African-Americans intrigues national GOP operatives. A year from November, Swann arguably could be the nation’s highest ranking elected Republican African-American — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was, of course, selected by President George Bush. From that platform, it would not be inconceivable to imagine a run at the presidency in 2012.

But that’s getting ahead of the game. Way ahead. Officially, Swann hasn’t even decided to run for governor yet, but those close to him say the announcement is likely to come at the beginning of 2006. It is likely to be a three-man race for the Republican nomination that also features former lieutenant governor William W. Scranton III and state Senate majority whip Jeff Piccola, who is considered less of a threat. The winner would then take on incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell — an unabashed Eagles fan.

The article is quite detailed and goes into the pros and cons of being a “celebrity candidate.” And, of course, there’s the race issue:

Black Republicans are currently being groomed to run for governor or U.S. Senate in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland — and now, Pennsylvania. In 2006 a number of similarly ascendant black Republicans are expected to contest statewide elections in Ohio, Missouri, Vermont and Texas. Swann is the perfect vehicle for Republicans who are trying to access new voters. Republican candidates have not historically resonated among African-Americans. According to exit polls, George Bush won 11 percent of the black vote in the 2004 presidential race.

“I don’t see it as a delicate balancing act,” Swann said. “Some people are under the misconception that because you’re an African-American you’re not a conservative. In many cases, there are similar conservative values in the African-American community, consistent with the Republican party.”

“The Republican party is about opportunities,” said Smith, the House majority leader. “Lynn Swann has worked hard to succeed, and that is a good, positive image he could bring to the African-American community. Obviously, that’s one of the things that makes him attractive from a national perspective. This would give us the opportunity to expand our base in counties where we’ve struggled.”

Swann would become the first African-American to be nominated for governor in state history.

One hopes that the day will come when a black man running for office, even as a Republican, will no longer be noteworthy. Swann has an opportunity to help make that day come a little faster.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    I heard Peter Gammons is determined to keep him out of the Governor’s Mansion.

  2. Mark says:

    Wrong sport, Jim 🙂

  3. Tano says:

    What a farce! Celebrity candidates. No wonder y’all only get 10% of the black vote.

    A winning smile!!! A degree in public relations!!!
    A family!!! Lots of money!!!
    Can he tap dance too?

    Could you find a better description of a token figurehead?

  4. Beldar says:

    Tano: Fabulous demonstration of racism from the left. You’re a sick, sick puppy.

    Dr. Joyner: I think we’re much closer to the day when a candidate’s skin color will be unremarkable than we are to the day when a former pro football player’s candidacy will be unremarkable. It’s the folks like Tano who’re delaying the former, however.

  5. ICallMasICM says:

    Apparently Tano thinks those are all bad things. Tap dancing? Thanks Tano you are a credit to progressives everywhere.

    If it comes down to making a catch in traffic the other candidate has no chance.

  6. Roger says:

    I’ve said it to many people, I will not vote for Ed Rendell if he runs for re-election and I will not vote for anyone who helped pass the PA general assembly pay raise this summer. PA may be at the bottom of the barrel regarding education and some roads but darned if we don’t have well paid state politicians.

  7. Tano says:

    Oh, I forgot. A firm handshake too!

    Methinks you havent the first clue about what racism is. How about the instinct to look to a millionaire celebrity football player as an example of the GOP openess to black people and their concerns. You would support this guy for one reason only – not his competence at public policy, not his competence at executive leadership, but because he is black and a charismatic celebrity, period. The day the GOP begins to take black people and their issues seriously is the day that you will begin to have serious black candidates arising through the ranks of your party. People who would be elected because of their talents – talents relevant to the job, not just their ability to catch a football.

  8. SteelerFan4Life says:

    Tano said “You would support this guy for one reason only – not his competence at public policy, not his competence at executive leadership, but because he is black and a charismatic celebrity, period.”
    That’s TWO reasons. Which one were you excluding? By the way, Rendell has zero experience at EITHER of those points.
    I would vote for ANYONE at this point, over Rendell. If he happens to be a former football player, so what? If he happens to be a former lawyer, a car salesman, or a convicted criminal, now THEN everyone needs to worry.
    Number 88 is an ALL AMERICAN and no one can blemish that rep, but I am sure some will try.

    Last night, he announced he IS running!