Rep. Jon Runyan has announced that he will not seek a third term in Congress representing New Jersey’s third district. Runyan was a Pro Bowl offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles for many years and it was that popularity that carried him to Congress in South Jersey.
As an Eagles fan and a Jersey guy, I was thrilled that Runyan got involved in politics. I fondly remember seeing him walking to work between New Jersey Ave and Second Street SE, and marveling at how much larger he was than any other congressman or staffer. The overly optimistic part of me hoped he could push around some of those D.C. insiders like he did defensive linemen.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Sources have gone on the record and said that Runyan thinks “these people are crazy.” No, not the Tea Party or his constituents. It was the inside-the-Beltway crowd that he found intolerable:
He was at an event recently, it might have been a chicken dinner or a ribbon cutting, and a party member went up to him and asked Runyan how it was going.
There was a pause before the congressman opened up, according to the source.
“These people are crazy,” Runyan said.
PolitickerNJ.com asked the source if he thought Runyan meant the Tea Party, and he said he didn’t think so – not the Tea Party alone, but the entire cloak and dagger culture of Washington, D.C. …
“He’s a football player,” the source said. “He enjoyed working on veterans’ issues and issues around the base (Fort Dix/McGuire), but after that, I just don’t think Jon enjoyed the culture of Washington, D.C.”
Runyan played football at Michigan and then in multiple places in the NFL. He excelled at an elite level. He had a reputation for being one of the nastiest and most physical offensive tackles in the game. This is not a man who is easily intimidated or discouraged. Yet the complete dysfunction of Washington was enough for him to throw up his hands and walk away.
Unlike so many others, Runyan’s inclination after his football career was the become a public servant and try to contribute to the common good. But D.C. beat that out of him. This city did what Michael Strahan never could: Get Jon Runyan to quit.
There is something inherently troubling about a culture that works at such cross-purposes that it repels a man of such achievement and character. Perhaps Runyan was not smart enough or he simply got burnt out. Perhaps he didn’t have the stomach for the fight.
But after cheering for him for a decade, I believe it is Washington that has the problem, not Jon Runyan.