Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler won a seat in the U.S. House, track great Jim Ryun lost his race and Super Bowl star Lynn Swann fell short Tuesday in elections involving ex-athletes.
Shuler beat a Republican incumbent for a congressional spot in North Carolina. The race had been considered a tossup, and was one of the closely watched campaigns in the effort by Democrats to regain control of the House of Representatives.
“They talk about these sports analogies that I use, but let me tell you what,” Shuler said in his victory speech. “It is about teamwork.”
Ryun, a Kansas Republican and once the world-record holder in the mile, lost in his bid for a sixth term in the House.
“I am really, really grateful for all that you have done,” Ryun said in conceding. “There are so many rich stories and rich memories. I cherish those.”
Swann, the Hall of Fame receiver whose football career was one long string of successes, was beaten in his bid to become Pennsylvania’s governor.
Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, the Hall of Fame pitcher, does not go before voters until 2010. Tom Osborne, the former Nebraska congressman and longtime Cornhuskers football coach, lost in a gubernatorial primary.
Shuler, a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Tennessee who spent four unexceptional seasons in the NFL with Washington and New Orleans, defeated Rep. Charles Taylor, an eight-term Republican incumbent.
The 34-year-old ex-quarterback was born in the hills of western North Carolina and trumpeted what he called “mountain values.” He opposed abortion, supported gun rights and environmentalism and said the administration had gone astray on Iraq.
At a ballroom in Asheville, N.C., Shuler supporters chanted, “Heath, Heath, Heath” and clapped along as an aide sang “Rocky Top” — the Tennessee fight song.
Ryun lost to Democrat Nancy Boyda. It was a rematch of the 2004 contest that Ryun won easily. Ryun had been an ardent supporter of Republican policies, and Boyda’s campaign featured the slogan of “Had Enough?”
Swann, who won four Super Bowl crowns with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was unable to maximize his celebrity buzz.
The 54-year-old Republican lost to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. Swann began the day trailing by double digits in the polls.
Swann, a political newcomer, was trying to become Pennsylvania’s first black governor but was up against an experienced opponent and skilled fundraiser. Swann positioned himself as a reformer, promising to slash business taxes and tighten state spending.
“Changing Harrisburg is bigger than Lynn Swann or any one individual campaign,” he said.
In other congressional races:
—Baron Hill, a Democrat and former basketball player at Furman, held his seat in Indiana.
—Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., a former captain and linebacker at Northern Arizona, won another term in Arizona.
—Former Stanford women’s basketball star Angie Paccione made a bid to unseat a Republican in Colorado.
—Italo Zanzi, who competed at the Pan American Games as a U.S. team handball player, took on a Democratic incumbent in New York.
Away from Capitol Hill, Joe DeNucci, a middleweight boxer who twice lost to Emile Griffith, won his race to remain Massachusetts state auditor.
Fred Hemmings, a former world surfing champion, campaigned for another term as a state senator in Hawaii. Mike Nifong, the district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players, won in Durham, N.C.
Among the ballot measures, the Sacramento Kings hoped to win support in their attempt to get a new arena.
Sports and family also crossed paths.
—Sen. George Allen, R-Va., son of the former Washington Redskins coach, was in a key race with former Navy Secretary Jim Webb.
—The mother of Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints tried for a spot for a place on a Texas appeals court. The quarterback had asked Mina Brees to stop using his picture in her TV ads, and even threatened to sue her.
—In Maryland, Michael Steele lost in his Senate race against Rep. Benjamin Cardin. Steele holds a unique distinction in politics: Mike Tyson’s former brother-in-law.
Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom was unable to go out a winner, fading quickly in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday in his last race before retirement.
CBT: Kansas commit Andrew Wiggins impressed in his first workout with the Jayhawks.
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