August 16, 2006

Lynn Swann To Visit East Hampton

Pro football legend Lynn Swann, who will attend a fundraiser in East Hampton next week, has a new race to run.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' star wide receiver is locked in a high stakes race for the Governor's seat in Pennsylvania. Swann, a Republican, said he entered the race because he is unhappy with the direction the state is headed in.

"There is a lack of leadership in this state," he said in an interview. "A handful of people are manipulating the system." The state ranked 41st in job growth last year. "We educate our kids but there is no place to go [after they graduate]. Doctors are among those fleeing Pennsylvania, creating a health care crisis. Some hospitals won't even deliver babies." Swan said the current governor, Ed Rendell, refused to sign legislation that would have helped alleviate the problem.

The mercurial Swann burst on the football scene in 1974, when the Steelers were embarking on a decade-long period of dominance during which they won six straight AFC titles and four Super Bowls. Swan, a thin wide receiver, commanded much of the spotlight.

In 1975, the second season, Swann was named most valuable player in the Super Bowl and set a record for most yards gained by a receiver. The rabid Pittsburgh fans still remember.

"Everywhere you go there is someone talking to you about where they were when a play was made," he said. Though his name recognition is an obvious plus in the race, his opponent has played up his lack of political experience.

"The governor and his people say I'm inexperienced, I'm not up on the issues, but you know what? Ronald Reagan never ran for office before he became president. Neither did Tom Osborne, Steve Largent or Bill Bradley," naming three sports figures who took the plunge into politics.

Swann was an all-American at Southern Cal before being drafted in the first round by the Steelers. By the time he retired in 1982 he had been selected to the three Pro Bowl teams and the all-decade team. He was eventually elected to the College Football Hall of Fame (1993) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2001.

Swann is aware of the perception that Republicans face an uphill battle in the November elections because of their general support of the war in Iraq, an increasingly unpopular position nationwide. But he doesn't expect it to be a problem in Pennsylvania.

"It's important to realize governors don't make the decision about when we go to war. We are concerned about the people of Pennsylvania," he said. One of the first things Swann said he would do if elected would be to revamp the property tax structure.

He said he doesn't intend to make politics a second career. "Being elected isn't supposed to be a career. That's why there are term limits. We've been complaining about the property tax for years and nothing has been done."

Swann pointed out the game of football has changed a lot since he played. Linebackers are faster, rules protect the quarterback from being roughed up, offensive linemen use their hands more and the players have gotten bigger.

He isn't sure if the use of steroids was as prevalent then as in recent times, but Swann said he was never concerned a steroid user would have an unfair advantage against him.

"When you go out on the field you go out to compete. You deal with all the circumstances," he said.

There will be a fundraiser at the 1770 House for Swann next Wednesday evening. There may be one or two other appearances to follow. For more information, call 324-1325.

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