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Swann considers run for governor

| Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles -- two of pro football's top teams this season -- could clash in the Super Bowl early next year.

It also could precede a high-powered gubernatorial matchup between Gov. Ed Rendell, a big-time Eagles booster, and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Steelers legend Lynn Swann.

Swann, a wide receiver during the Steelers' glory years in the 1970s, is considering running for governor as a Republican in 2006, his spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Rendell does a Philadelphia Eagles post-game television show for Comcast SportsNet. Swann is an ABC-TV college football commentator.

Swann, who was appointed to the president's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in 2002 and took a prominent role in President Bush's re-election campaign, has been discussing a run for governor with state GOP officials.

"His decision is not imminent. However, he is speaking with family, friends and political leaders regarding it," said Marlene Chodkowski, Swann's executive assistant at Swann Inc., his consulting firm.

Swann, 54, who was born in Tennessee and grew up in San Mateo, Calif., continued to make Pittsburgh his home after the 1982 season, when he ended his playing career. He lives in Sewickley Heights with his wife, Charena, and their two children.

Swann was a first-round draft pick for the Steelers in 1974 after playing in two Rose Bowls for the University of Southern California. He played in three Pro Bowls and won four Super Bowl rings. He was MVP of Super Bowl X in 1976 -- catching four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers 21-17 win over Dallas.

Over his career, Swann made 336 receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

Swann has been the national spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America since 1980. He has provided more than 100 scholarships to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School for children between the ages of 10 and 18.

House Majority Leader Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said Swann called him this week about a possible run for governor. "He told me he was exploring it. He told me he clearly wasn't making a commitment."

"I think he's a very exciting prospect. I think he's bright, articulate and obviously a very charismatic guy. I think it's pretty exciting to have a guy like Lynn Swann running. I'm sure Gov. Rendell thinks so, too," Smith said with a grin.

Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Rendell, said the "governor has no opinion as to who the Republican candidate might be but plans to run an aggressive campaign based on his own record of accomplishment."

Pittsburgh-area Republicans speak highly of Swann.

Allegheny County Republican Chairman Bob Glancy describes him as "a very loyal and active Republican."

"He has a great deal of name recognition, and he's a very smart man," Glancy said. "I think he would be a very interesting candidate in that race. He certainly would garner a lot of support. He was very supportive of the president and the number one point man in most of the events here during the re-election."

Swann spoke to the Republican National Convention on Sept. 2 and was co-chairman of the African-American steering committee for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

"It's great news," said Bob Hillen, chairman of the Pittsburgh Republican Committee. "He has a very unique way of bringing people together. He's articulate and very persuasive in the way he puts forth his ideas."

"I actually think Lynn Swann could unseat an incumbent governor," he added.

Rendell has history on his side: No sitting governor has been denied re-election since the state constitution was amended in the late 1960s to allow two consecutive terms.

Two other Republicans -- state Senate Majority Whip Jeffrey E. Piccola and former Lt. Gov. William Scranton III -- also are considering seeking their party's nomination.

Piccola acknowledged Swann is well-known.

"This is not just about names. This is about ideas and vision," he said. "I have some very definite ideas about the direction I feel Pennsylvania needs to go."

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