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Office No Lock If You’re A Jock Kemp, Petty Fall, But Many Other Former Athletes Win Elections

Jack Kemp won two AFL championships, and Richard Petty won 200 major stock car races. They were losers, though, on Election Day.

Kemp and Republican running mate Bob Dole took a Super Bowl-sized beating in the presidential race, but Kemp said he had no regrets after President Clinton was re-elected in a landslide.

Other than his marriage and family, Kemp said running for vice president with Dole was “the greatest experience of my life.”

Petty, the biggest winner in stock car racing history, lost his bid to become North Carolina’s secretary of state. The “King” of NASCAR racing was soundly beaten by Democrat Elaine Marshall.

“If I had known I wasn’t going to win,” Petty said, “I wouldn’t have run.”

Former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney lost the Missouri lieutenant governor’s race to incumbent Roger Wilson, but several other ex-athletes were successful at the polls.

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, former football stars Steve Largent and J.C. Watts, and track great Jim Ryun ran as Republicans and won.

Bunning, inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in August, was elected to his sixth term as a U.S. representative from Kentucky. He easily defeated Denny Bowman, the mayor of Covington, Ky.

“I waited 25 years to stand on that field in Cooperstown and get that plaque,” Bunning said of his Hall of Fame induction. “You might imagine it felt pretty good. I have that same feeling standing here tonight.”

Largent and Watts were re-elected to congressional seats in Oklahoma.

Largent, a Hall of Fame receiver with the Seattle Seahawks, defeated Tulsa writer Randolph Amen.

“I am excited, I’m humbled and I’m honored by the results,” Largent said.

Watts, who led Oklahoma to two straight Orange Bowl victories in the late 1970s, beat state representative Ed Crocker.

“It’s time to take off the campaign suits and put back on the congressional suits and get back to work,” Watts said.

Ryun, the former world record-holder in the mile, defeated attorney John Frieden for a congressional seat in Kansas. It was the first political race for Ryun, who won a silver medal in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Olympics.

Voters in Houston, Miami and Detroit approved measures that clear the way for new downtown sports facilities.

Harris County voters narrowly approved plans for a $265 million baseball stadium in Houston.

Dade County voters approved a plan for the Miami Heat to build a $165 million waterfront arena on valuable public property after the team agreed to pay all the construction costs.

The drive to bring the Detroit Lions back to the city passed a major hurdle when Wayne County residents approved a tourist tax to help pay for a new stadium.