FRED LIEF, AP Sports Writer – Big-spending former wrestling executive Linda McMahon was smacked down again in her bid for a U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, losing on a night when sports and politics met in the same arena.
McMahon, a Republican who once ran World Wrestling Entertainment with blustery and better-known husband Vince McMahon, was beaten by Democrat Chris Murphy. She also lost in 2010 in a bid for the Senate. McMahon spent more than $42 million of her own wealth in the race for retiring independent Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat.
In another Senate race, the great-grandson of one of baseball’s most august figures lost his Senate race in Florida. Connie Mack IV, a Republican, is a descendant of Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack. He was defeated by Democrat Bill Nelson, who won a third term.
This was hardly an All-Star night for sports. Long gone are the days when the likes of basketball’s Bill Bradley served in the Senate. More recently, football’s J.C. Watts and track’s Jim Ryun were in Congress.
Two years ago, Hall of Fame pitcher and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning retired. This year, sports lost more of its sizzle in Congress: Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, retired, and North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a one-time NFL quarterback, chose not to run again after his district was redrawn.
Murphy, a three-term congressman, made an issue of the 64-year-old McMahon’s wrestling roots, dismissing the enterprise as a vulgar and violent spectacle that belittled women.
“I think that not every CEO is qualified to be a United States senator,” he said.
WWE, as the wrestling extravaganza is now known, tried to clean up its image during the Senate campaign in an attempt to make itself more presentable as family fare. Still, Democrats found ways to remind the electorate of an online scene featuring a wrestler simulating sex with a corpse in a casket.
Mack has made much of his baseball lineage. On his web page, the “O” in his first name is replaced with a baseball. The congressman’s great-grandfather managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, starting in 1901, and with his suit and straw hat was always an impeccable presence in the dugout. He retired when he was 88.
The younger Mack’s reputation was hit hard in TV ads. Nelson depicted Mack as a bar brawling party-boy. In 1992, Mack was involved in a barroom brawl with then-Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant. Mack insisted he was sober and minding his own business.
Mack, however, was not the only loser on the ballot with a strong baseball heritage. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky is the grandson of former baseball commissioner Happy Chandler. He was commissioner from 1945-51, a period when Jackie Robinson broke the game’s racial barrier when he joined the Dodgers. Ben Chandler, a Blue Dog Democrat, lost to Republican Andy Barr, who linked his opponent to the president in a state where Barack Obama is decidedly weak.
Others with family ties on election night were two candidates with NFL connections: George Allen and Tom Rooney.
Allen was turned back by Tim Kaine in his attempt to win a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. He is the brother of Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and the son of former Redskins coach George Allen. Rooney, a nephew of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, easily won re-election to his U.S. House seat from Florida.
In Nevada, Danny Tarkanian was running for a House seat in Congress. He was the star point guard in the early ’80s at UNLV, where he was coached by his celebrated towel-chomping father, Jerry Tarkanian.
Also from college basketball: Jim Tedisco, a Union College star in the early ’70s, was on his way to victory in the New York Legislature; Al Lawson, once a Florida A&M star and assistant coach to Hugh Durham at Florida State, was beaten in a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida.
Four ex-NFL players were in the mix: Jon Runyan, a lineman who spent most of his 14 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, held his New Jersey seat in Congress; Clint Didier, once a star tight end for the Redskins, lost his race to become public lands commissioner in the state of Washington; Phil Hansen, a defensive end who played on three Super Bowl teams for the Bills, was in a tight race for the Minnesota Legislature; and Jimmy Farris (Falcons, Redskins) was eyeing a U.S. House seat from Idaho.
In a U.S. House race in Ohio, former Arena Football League owner Jim Renacci was re-elected.
A one-time Harlem Globetrotter provided some razzle-dazzle in Arkansas. Fred Smith, of the Green Party, was elected to the Legislature when a judge said no votes would be counted for his opponent because of a felony conviction.
In a sports-related ballot measure, Glendale, Ariz., voters rejected a sales tax enacted this summer, but it’s still uncertain what this does to the proposed sale of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn., and Gary Fineout and Brendan Farrington in Florida contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.