Hart: Swann Won’t Impact Possible Comeback

Posted April 13, 2007 at 6:23pm

Former Rep. Melissa Hart (R) said late Friday that she would not be deterred from running for her old seat by Pittsburgh Steelers legend Lynn Swann (R), who revealed late last week that he is considering challenging freshman Rep. Jason Altmire (D) in Pennsylvania’s 4th district.

Hart said in a brief telephone interview that she has not decided whether to run in 2008. But the former three-term Congresswoman said she is “absolutely” giving it some thought, adding that Swann’s decision would have “no impact” on what she ultimately chooses to do.

Hart said she has discussed a potential 2008 bid with the National Republican Congressional Committee but declined to elaborate on the tenor of those talks.

The former Congresswoman said she does not have a timetable for making a decision on whether to run, suggesting what she does could be dictated by how satisfied voters are with the Democratic Congress.

“I think everyone is looking at the atmosphere as to where people stand on the new Congress,” Hart said.

In his maiden campaign for political office, Swann lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to the incumbent Ed Rendell (D), by 20 points. But Swann beat Rendell in the Pittsburgh-area 4th district, winning 52 percent of the vote.

And the former star wide receiver remains popular in western Pennsylvania in large part because of a Hall of Fame football career that saw him win multiple Super Bowl titles with the city’s beloved National Football League franchise.

Swann was traveling and could not be reached for comment at press time Friday. But he told The Associated Press in a story that broke Thursday that he is considering challenging Altmire, who is one of the NRCC’s top 2008 targets.

David Urban, a Republican operative and Washington, D.C., lobbyist who is a 4th district native, said Swann would have to be considered a formidable threat to Altmire if he ran, considering he won the district against a very popular Democratic governor even though the district leans Democratic.

Urban first met Swann 10 years ago, when he was Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-Pa.) chief of staff and Swann was lobbying the Senator on behalf of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

“Lynn Swann is a bright guy with a fighting spirit,” Urban said. “I would think he’s a very viable candidate against a freshman who was swept in with the tsunami of the last Congressional election.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not address a hypothetical Swann candidacy directly. But a spokeswoman indicated the DCCC has confidence in Altmire, who won 52 percent of the vote as he upset Hart. Altmire raised about $230,000 in the first three months of the year, according to the DCCC.

Democrats hold a voter registration advantage in the 4th, 57 percent to 39 percent, although the district’s Democrats tend to be conservative in the spirit of Democrats who famously helped elect Republican Ronald Reagan president.

“Congressman Altmire puts the interests of Pennsylvania’s families before partisan politics,” DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James said. “He is focused on supporting our veterans, making college more affordable and lowering prescription drug costs for seniors.”