Despite apparent comments to the contrary, former Eagles tackle and newly signed San Diego Charger Jon Runyan will indeed retire from football at the end of the season to run for congress, says Burlington County Republican spokesman Chris Russel.
“He was trying to be playful and just having a give and take with reporters, joking around,” said Russell. “Nothing changed to him.”
On Tuesday, Runyan signed with the Chargers for the rest of the season, declaring it the end of his football career and the beginning of his run for Congress in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District.
But on Wednesday, Runyan told San Diego sports reporters that he has not “fully committed” to running for a House seat and that he was still “exploring my options.”
Blue Jersey blogger Jason Springer latched on to the statement as evidence that Runyan “still wants a Super Bowl ring more than a seat in Congress,” and posted a video of the press conference on YouTube.
Russell, however, said the response was the mark of a different kind of congressional candidate—one who has a playful relationship with the press and is not dependent on “canned sound bites” – even if all of his statements so far about his congressional run have been just that.
“When he gets back here and when he starts running, you’re going to see a guy who’s pretty candid and likes interacting with the press,” said Russell.
But Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, who presides over the party that dominates the congressional district’s other major county, remains skeptical.
“I’m not convinced that if he’s offered a contract next year to play for the San Diego chargers or anything else he’s going to say no,” said Gilmore, who added that he believes Russell is “desperate to have the guy run.”
Gilmore has his own short list of candidates, including state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Lacey Twp), Toms River Councilman Moe Hill and former State Lottery Commissioner Virginia “Ginny Haines.” Gilmore said there are also a couple other potential candidates who do not want their names floated publicly yet.
“I’m not simply going to say ‘Oh yes, Jon Runyan is our guy.’ There are a lot of good people out there, including Moe Hill, Chris Connors and Ginny Haines. It doesn’t matter how many statements Jon Runyan puts out, it’s going to be the same answer: we have a process and we’re going to go through it.”
Shripal Shah, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, focused his criticism of Runyan on his spotty voting record.
“Jon Runyan can't even get himself to the polling place regularly. His failure to do so and participate in the democratic process over the past decade raise serious questions about whether he's even ready for public service, let alone qualified,” he said.