Salena Zito

Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann said Thursday he is considering a run for Congress.

Swann, a Sewickley Heights Republican who lost his bid last year to unseat Gov. Ed Rendell, would challenge freshman Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, in the 4th Congressional District next year.

Swann told The Associated Press yesterday that he is thinking about running.

"I think what he is doing right now is very similar to what he did in the governor's race," said Ray Zaborney, who managed Swann's gubernatorial campaign. "He is collecting information, weighing it and deciding what to do. Right now Swann is listening to people, but I don't think that he has made up his mind politically right now."

Swann's entry into the race could set up a spring primary showdown with Melissa Hart, the Bradford Woods Republican whose loss to Altmire was considered one of November's bigger upsets.

"I am watching the political atmosphere and certainly keeping my options open," Hart said. "I enjoyed my public service, I loved working with the people in that district, and I may run again."

An Altmire-Swann race would be very competitive, said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Lynn Swann has high name ID and the ability to raise a good deal of money," he said.

Although Swann garnered just 40 percent of the vote in the governor's race, he beat Rendell in the 4th District, taking 52 percent of the vote, Zaborney noted.

"That happened with very little money spent in the Pittsburgh market," he said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee "views that seat as a target, and we are confident that we can win there," press secretary Ken Spain said. "Lynn Swann would make an excellent candidate."

Altmire spokeswoman Christina Stacey said the congressman's focus is elsewhere.

"While the Republicans continue to play politics, Rep. Altmire will continue to focus on working hard for the people of the 4th Congressional District," she said.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.