Roger Clemens: 'No interest' in running for Congress despite GOP recruitment effort

He blames the "climate in politics," according to a message obtained by ABC News

August 20, 2019, 6:33 PM

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens is "honored" by the encouragement to run for Congress, but he has ruled it out -- blaming the "climate in politics."

In a message written to current incumbent Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson -- and obtained by ABC News -- Clemens noted that while he was "honored" Olson, who unexpectedly announced his retirement last month, "would consider me as a candidate to represent our great State of Texas in the 22 District, I have no interest in doing so."

"The climate in politics at this time is much more than I would want to undertake along with my family considerations," Clemens wrote in a message sent to Olson last week.

Clemens, known by baseball fans as "The Rocket," had been generating buzz as a potential Republican candidate for the open seat over the past two weeks, according to sources in Washington and Texas.

A spokesperson for Olson declined to comment on the race or share a copy of the congressman's initial correspondence to Clemens.

Multiple sources predicted that Clemens, 57, would ultimately opt against entering the race in what could be a tough election cycle for the GOP in the Lone Star State. A candidacy filing period opens in Texas on Nov. 9 and closes on Dec. 9.

"People are talking him up, but from what we're hearing he's not going to do it," a GOP campaign source told ABC News last week.

Another source added, Clemens had "not confirmed that he's in, but his name is being tossed around."

Pitcher Roger Clemens takes a break from talking with fans during Innings Festival at Tempe Beach Park, March 3, 2019, in Tempe, Arizona.
Jim Bennett/Getty Images

An aide at the National Republican Congressional Committee said that the House GOP's campaign arm "hasn't spoken directly to him."

"Roger Clemens would be a good candidate, but we don't need a celebrity baseball player to win it," the aide said. "It's Texas. We have a huge bench down there."

So far, only one Republican candidate, Brazoria County Judge Greg Hill, has announced his intention to run for Olson's seat, though additional candidates are expected to emerge in the coming months, sources said.

"No one was planning on Olson retiring," the aide said. "There's plenty of time for people to get ready to go and get in the race."

"People around [Clemens] want him to run," a national GOP campaign source said, adding that Clemens reemerged on the NRCC's radar last week and was "fueled by Olson's retirement announcement."

"I can't speak to motivations of people putting his name out there, whether they're doing it on their own or at Clemens' request," the source added.

A Clemens spokesperson also told ABC News that he's had an extensive travel schedule this summer, filled with charity and celebrity appearances.

Texas' 22nd Congressional District has traditionally has been a solid Republican district, where President Donald Trump won by eight points in 2016.

Rep. Pete Olson at the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress, Jan. 24, 2017, in Washington, DC.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call,Inc. via Getty Images, FILE

Clemens has never run for political office, but has donated to other Republicans, including former Texas Rep. Ted Poe, according to a Congressional Quarterly report from 2007.

A source "familiar with the situation" who requested anonymity had "heard the same rumblings as well that he's considering," but added that Clemens had not taken any formal steps toward a campaign, such as filing, choosing a general consultant, naming a treasurer or building a team.

In 1992, Clemens and his wife Debra established The Roger Clemens Foundation, which is dedicated to helping children, especially at-risk children, through educational, charitable, literary, scientific and religious activities.

Despite a career that placed Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young award winner, in the mix as the greatest pitcher of all-time, the two-time World Series Champion has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame due to allegations that he used anabolic steroids late in his career, though he never failed a drug test.

Clemens testified before Congress on Feb. 13, 2008 to deny the allegations and was later indicted by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on six felony counts, including perjury, false statements and contempt of Congress. After his case initially led to a mistrial, Clemens was later found not guilty on six counts of lying to Congress in 2012.

He currently serves as a special assistant to the general manager of the Astros, where he works with the team's pitchers providing instruction and player evaluation.

Another former major league pitcher, Curt Schilling, has said he is exploring a congressional bid in Arizona. In 2016, he told the ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast that he was considering a run in 2018 against Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

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