South Jersey Democrats are trying to woo former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski into running for the New Jersey State Senate and have a poll in the field to test his strength as a candidate.
Several Burlington County residents have received the text message poll, and the New Jersey Globe has confirmed that it comes from the Democratic side.
The head-to-head matchup is between Jaworski and the likely Republican candidate, labor leader Latham Tiver for the open Senate seat in the 8th legislative district. Freshman Republican State Sen. Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) is not seeking re-election.
The 72-year-old Jaworski, who lives in Medford, is a longtime friend of George Norcross, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats. Norcross is on a mission to increase South Jersey’s Democratic delegation in the upper house next year.
In 2019, Norcross convinced a Republican state senator, Dawn Addiego, to switch parties and seek re-election in 2021 as a Democrat. But Stanfield unseated Addiego in a district that has not elected a Democrat to the legislature since 1973.
Tiver is a former Burlington County freeholder and, perhaps more importantly, a business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, one of the state’s most politically influential unions. Will Monk, a Mount Holly school board member, is also seeking the GOP nomination.
Jaworski is a registered Republican, which is not a barrier to filing as a Democrat in March. He was recruited to seek public office before – Republicans wanted him to run against Rob Andrew for an open congressional seat in 1990 after Jim Florio resigned to become governor, and Democrats tried to convince him to run for freeholder in 1992 – but he has turned down such overtures.
Norcross has also sought to get Jaworski a seat on the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield board of directors.
Jaworski played in the NFL from 1973 to 1989, including ten years with the Eagles. He remained in the public eye as an ESPN analyst and owned several businesses in South Jersey.
Several professional athletes have sought political careers in South Jersey.
Another Eagles star, Jon Runyan, was a Republican congressman from a Burlington/Ocean district for four years after unseating a Democratic incumbent in 2010.
But former NFL linebacker Garry Cobb, who also played for the Eagles during a ten-year career, received just 39% of the vote in his 2014 bid for Congress as a Republican against Rep. Donald Norcross (D-Camden). Former Philadelphia Flyers star Brian Propp, who played in the NHL for fifteen years, lost a bid for State Assembly in 2007; running as a Republican in the 7th legislative district, he lost to incumbents Herbert Conaway, Jr. (D-Delran) and Jack Connors (D-Pennsauken). Ex-Giants player Phil McConkey sought the Republican nomination for an open congressional seat in 1990; he finished second in the primary, beind Dick Zimmer and ahead of Rodney Frelinghuysen.
In 2011, Norcross convinced former Olympian Carl Lewis to run for State Senate against Addiego as a Democrat, but a judge threw him off the ballot because he didn’t meet the residency requirement.
New York Knicks Hall of Famer Bill Bradley won a U.S. Senate seat in 1978, at age 35. He represented New Jersey in the Senate for eighteen years.
Harry Harper, known as Hackensack Harry, a pitcher for the Yankees and Dodgers in the 1920s, served as Bergen County Sheirff and as New Jersey Commissioner of Labor. But Harper lost races for State Senate, Congress, and U.S. Senate.