Pros Turned Pols: The Athletes Who Became U.S. Politicians

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Republican Chris Dudley narrowly lost the race against Democrat John Kitzhaber for governor of Oregon. From 1988-2003 he played center for the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns.

Dudley’s not alone. Plenty of other athletes have tried taking the political route.

John C. Newscom/John C. Anderson/chrisdudley2010

Republican John Runyan beat out Democrat John Adler in New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district this year. From 1996-2009, he was an offensive tackle for the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers.

Newscom/John Pyle/Cal Sport Media/Runyan2010

Heath Shuler is a Democratic congressman from North Carolina, first elected in 2006. He won reelection Tuesday against Republican Jeff Miller. From 1994-1998, he played quarterback for the Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints.

Newscom/Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Martin Venegas

Lynn Swann is a former Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania and former Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under President George W. Bush, from 2002-2005. From 1974-1982, he played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Newscom/David Cruz/Tony Tomsic/ZUMA Press/

J.C. Watts was a Republican congressman from 1995-2003. He was quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners before going onto play professionally for the Canadian Football League.

ZUMA Press/Newscom

Bill Bradley is a former Democratic senator from New Jersey. He served in the Senate from 1979-1997. From 1967-1977, he played small forward and shooting guard for the New York Knicks.

Newscom/iconphotos/Sinartus Sosrodjojo/ZUMA Press

Rep. Jack Kemp (1935-2009) was a Republican Congressman from New York, and served as the nation’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was in Congress from 1971-1989, and served as Secretary from 1989-1993. From 1957-1969, he was quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Calgary Stampeders, L.A./San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills.

Newscom/KRT/Karin Cooper

Jay Riemersma is a former Republican candidate for Congress in Michigan. He announced his candidacy in 2009. From 1996-2004, he played tight end for the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Newscom/Roll Call Photos/Michael J. Miller

Jim Bunning is a Republican senator from Kentucky, elected to the Senate in 1999. From 1955-1971, he pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.

Newscom/Charles Fox/KRT/Wikimedia

Kevin Johnson is the current mayor of Sacramento. He took office in 2008. From 1987-2000, he played guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns.

Newscom/Matt A. Brown/iconphotos/ZUMA Press

Peter Boulware is a former candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. He won the Republican primary in 2008, but lost in the general to Democrat Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda. From 1997-2005, he played linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.

Newscom/Carleton Hall/MMDI/iconphotos/ZUMA Press

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the current governor of California. For many years, Schwarzenegger was a champion bodybuilder, winning both Mr. Olympia and Strongman championships.

Newscom/Kennell Krista/SIPA

Tom Osborne is currently the athletic director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He served as a Republican congressman from 2001-2007, representing Nebraska’s 3rd district. From 1960-1961, he played wide receiver for the Washington Redskins. Before becoming athletic director, Osborne won several championships as head coach of Nebraska’s college football team.

Cliff Welch/Icon Photos/Tom Williams/Roll Call /Newscom

Steve Largent is a former Republican U.S. congressman from Oklahoma. He assumed office in 1994 and served until 2002. From 1976-1989, he played wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks.

Newscom/Brian Drake/Tom Williams/Roll Call

Angie Paccione served as a Democratic member of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2003-2007. After college at Stanford, she played two years for the Columbus Minks in the now-folded WABA.

Roll Call Photos/Newscom

Jesse Ventura served as governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003, representing the Independence Party. Known for his nickname “The Body,” Ventura was a professional wrestler with WWF for many years before his retirement in 1986.

Ricardo Watson/Newscom

Dave Bing became mayor of Detroit in 2009. From 1966-1978, he played shooting guard for the Detroit Pistons, Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics. Bing was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1990.

Daniel Mears/Detroit News/PSG/Newscom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com

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