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ESPN analyst Craig James is positioning himself to run for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat as a Republican.
"He hasn't gotten into it yet," Roy Bailey, a former Texas GOP official and a longtime friend of James, told Roll Call. James will make a decision in "the next few days," Bailey said.
An ESPN spokesman told Roll Call this week that James has told the network that "he hasn't decided if he plans to run."
Repeated attempts to reach James since the Dallas Morning News first reported the story on Tuesday were unsuccessful. But Bailey said his friend is already gaining supporters. People are "coming out of the woodwork encouraging him to do this," Bailey said.
James is considered one of the greatest running backs in Texas college football history. His career is not without controversy and could be problematic should he run for statewide office.
In 2009, he led a successful effort to oust the coach of the Texas Tech football team over a dispute involving his son, one of the team's players. Tech fans were enraged over the matter, and James became the focal point of their ire. Bailey said James is "not at all" worried those angry fans would factor into the race. "Craig stands up for what's right and against what's wrong," Bailey said.
In the early 1980s, he was a star running back for the Southern Methodist University football team. His time on the team coincided with the school's pay-for-play controversy, which attracted national attention and contributed to then-Gov. Bill Clements' (R) decision not to seek re-election.
James was never implicated in the SMU scandal and has denied involvement as late as this summer. Bailey said he has "zero concern" that SMU would come up in the campaign.