It’s time for another iteration of the celebrity-for-governor election story.
Lynn Swann, whose acrobatic receptions took him to four Super Bowls and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made another leap last night as he formally launched his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor.
Before a cheering crowd of about 500 at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, the former Steelers receiver promised to bring leadership and change to his adopted state.
“I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974, and tonight, I’m drafted by Pennsylvania to be governor,” Mr Swann said, shortly after making his entrance to the strains of Van Halen’s “Right Now.”
Speaking for 25 minutes without text or notes, a relaxed and engaging candidate pledged an administration that would deliver lower taxes in general and a reformed property tax system in particular. As in earlier appearances in his campaign, however, Mr. Swann offered few specific details of his polices amid the broad, thematic promises.
“I want to cut taxes in a responsible way and I’d like to reform property taxes … getting rid of the millage system and giving us real property tax reform,” he said. “If you want change, I’m your guy.”
In an interview before his appearance, Mr. Swann dismissed suggestions that he had been any less forthcoming than his Republican rivals in fleshing out his policy vision.
As the Legislature struggled without apparent progress to craft some solution to the controversial property tax issue, Mr. Swann said, “I’m competitive. So even if I had that play today, if I laid it out for you today, don’t you think that my opponents and other people would then say, ‘We can adapt that plan, too’?
“I don’t think this is the time to roll out the details,” he added while saying that he would provide more policy specifics as the campaign moves forward.
Swann’s grace has been on display for years on the gridiron and behind the microphone, but certainly the political realm is a different playing field. It certainly seems that the media is already looking for shortcomings and missteps.
At least in the case of Swann, as opposed to other recent celebrity candidates, the interest in politics doesn’t seem to be overnight or whimsical.
This is Mr. Swann’s first run for public office, although he has been active in Republican politics, campaigning extensively for President Bush in the 2004 election.
While he seeks to follow in the path of political outsiders who have won statehouses such as Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, Mr. Swann’s candidacy boasts the support of many members of the state’s GOP hierarchy, such as Mark Holman, who was former Gov. Tom Ridge’s chief of staff, and former state chairman Alan Novak.
Mr. Swann, born in Tennessee in 1952, was raised in California, and earned a degree in public relations and a place on the All-American football squad while attending the University of Southern California. He appeared last night with his wife, Charene, and their sons, Braxton and Shaffer. His parents, Willie and Mildred Swann, sat beaming in the first row as Mr. Swann spoke in a makeshift theater in the round amid the center’s artifacts of Pennsylvania history.
In an interview, Mr. Swann said that when he first registered to vote, it was as a Democrat, as his parents still are. He said he switched his registration to Republican after he moved to Pittsburgh, where he was active in civic affairs, including serving on the board of the Pittsburgh Ballet and as a spokesman for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
Okay, now there will be some reason for this sports fan to have a little interest in the Keystone State’s voting this year, though I would need some more specifics from Swann for that interest to actually change into support. I’m sure that’s a common thought in Pennsylvania right now.