PITTSBURGH (Jan. 4, 2006) -- Former Steelers star Lynn Swann declared his candidacy for Pennsylvania governor in the city where he made his name in professional football.
He told The Associated Press in an interview Jan. 4 that he made up his mind to run in the fall, after spending months weighing support at events around the state.
Swann, a Hall of Fame receiver and longtime TV football commentator, faces three other candidates in seeking the Republican nomination for governor -- his first run for political office. The winner of the May 16 primary likely would face Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who is expected to seek a second four-year term.
If successful in his first bid for political office, Swann would become Pennsylvania's first black governor. His announcement was no surprise: His political committee has been raising money for his campaign for nearly a year.
Swann, 53, kicked off his campaign with a rally in Pittsburgh. Former Steelers teammate Mel Blount introduced Swann, accompanied by his wife and two sons.
Tossing a Pro Football Hall of Fame cap into a cheering crowd of 500, Swann said, "Tonight Lynn Swann is running for governor, and that hat is in the ring."
He plans appearances in five other cities Jan. 5 and 6.
The Steelers won four Super Bowls during Swann's nine-year pro career with the team. He has worked for ABC Sports since his retirement from football in 1983.
Swann said he put off a formal announcement until now to avoid conflicts with his ABC Sports duties.
If elected, he said, he would not resume his broadcasting career even on a part-time basis. Rendell moonlights as a Philadelphia Eagles postgame analyst for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.
"I think the people of Pennsylvania would rather have a governor who is committed to being there," Swann said.
Swann has so far revealed little about his political philosophy or the initiatives he would pursue as governor. He has advocated reducing certain business taxes and said he opposes abortion rights.
In independent polling, former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III and Swann are running ahead of the other two GOP candidates, but behind Rendell.
Swann said that he hopes to convince blacks that he is a better candidate than Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor. The Democratic Party has "taken the African American vote for granted," Swann said.
G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said Swann needs to convince voters that he has ideas and the leadership ability necessary to turn them into policy. He could benefit from disenchantment with the state and national governments, Madonna said.
"Voters are looking for fresh faces," Madonna said. Swann "has a personal story to tell that's compelling."
The eventual GOP nominee could get a big boost Feb. 11, when the Republican State Committee meets to consider endorsing a candidate. On Wednesday, Scranton wrote Swann to ask him to participate in several debates before the meeting. Swann said he would be happy to participate in debates.