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Can Armstrong Shake Up Texas Races?

5:59 PM, Jan 7, 2009 • By KEVIN VANCE
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Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong (re)opened the door to a possible political run in an interview posted yesterday at The Daily Beast.

Is there a future for Lance Armstrong in politics?

If you feel like you can do the job better than people who are doing it now, and you can really make a difference, then that's a real calling to serve, and I think you have to do that. I felt a strong desire to come back and race right now because I felt we had a place and I could have a real impact and that's why I'm doing it. I don't think you want to enter political life unless you really think you can really have an impact. Don't do it for a bet, or a dare or for your ego. Or for any other competitive desire you have. Do it because you can get in there and change people's lives. That's why you do it. So, there will come a time, or not, that I say to myself, "You know what, I can help affect change." And if that day comes, then absolutely.

Your life these days is really about leveraging talent on the broadest stage possible, right?

Yeah, but it can also be on a small stage. Being a parent is important. Not that that's a small stage, but it's micro level. You can help raise your children. You can lead the state of Texas. You can be mayor of a city. You can run for the Senate. You can lead a cycling team. You can run a non-profit.

Armstrong, a cancer survivor, recently campaigned for a cancer research initiative in Texas that passed this past November. If Armstrong does run for governor or a Senate seat, the native Texan would probably run as a Democrat, though he counts President Bush as a personal friend. In 2003, the Washington Post reported he opposed the war in Iraq, and he is reportedly pro-choice and pro-gun control.

Armstong would also enter an already crowded field of all-star candidates for both races. Popular senior senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is widely expected to step down from the Senate to run for governor.

Perry has led the state since George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000. If he decides to run for a third full term in 2010, a bloody GOP primary may leave the Republican nominee vulnerable to a popular Democratic challenger.If and when Hutchison steps down from the Senate to run for governor, Republican railroad commissioner Michael Williams and Democratic Houston mayor Bill White have already announced they plan to run for the seat in a potential special election. Williams, who spoke at the last two Republican National Conventions, is currently the highest ranking African American in Texas state-level politics. In addition to Williams, several other prominent Texas Republicans are considering throwing their hats in the ring: State Sen. Florence Shapiro and U.S. House Reps. Kay Granger, Pete Sessions, Joe Barton, and Jeb Hensarling.

Aside from the relatively high number of political heavyweights likely to run in either race in 2010, Armstrong faces another challenge: Texans probably won't look favorably upon Armstrong's tumultuous personal life.

Armstrong had a couple celebrity girlfriends after divorcing the mother of his three children in 2003, and he announced two weeks ago that his current girlfriend will also be the mother of his fourth child. The baby is due in June.

But, as voters in California and Minnesota have shown us in recent years, celebrity status is not necessarily a disqualifier for high office if the stars are rightly aligned. In the meantime, anyway, Armstrong will be more focused on winning this year's Tour de France.