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Ten Questions: Jon Runyan
Congressman Runyan completes his first year on the job
By Terri Akman

It’s been one year since Mount Laurel’s Jon Runyan, 38, left the National Football League – where he was a veteran player for the Philadelphia Eagles – to become a Republican rookie in the U.S. Congress. He has represented the third district during one of the most volatile climates in political history. But despite the tough times, he’s not leaving the game.

 

Is the job what you thought it would be?

Yes. People ask me all the time what’s worse, doing this or playing football. They are both equally grueling and equally brutal, so there’s not a lot of difference. The upside to this is when I lie down to sleep at night, I’m not in physical pain because I wasn’t throwing myself at people all day.

 

Polls say Americans are fed up with the lack of accomplishments from their government. What would you tell those folks?

I am as frustrated as my constituents. The biggest thing right now is Harry Reid over in the Senate just sitting back and playing politics instead of doing his job and doing the people’s business. A glaring example of this is what happened before Christmas with the payroll tax extension. We were asking the Senate to sit down in a conference with us and iron out the differences between our bill and the amended bill they sent back to us. They refused. I think that, in itself, is really the gridlock, and it’s over there on the other side of the Capitol. We have had successes. We’ve done a lot by reining in discretionary spending. We spend less now than we did the previous year. We have over 25 jobs bills sitting in the Senate.

 

How much time do you spend in Washington versus in SJ?

Unknown-5I’m fortunate enough to only have 152 miles from the front door of my office to the front door of my home. I can get home every weekend, which a lot of people from out West can’t do. There’s a lot of work to be done in Washington, and I witnessed early on the snail’s pace at which they move. You want to be thorough, because every piece of legislation has unintended consequences attached to it, so you want to avoid as many of those as possible.

We have solid blocks of time for us to stay back home. Every third week we are back in our district for a solid 12 days straight. This allows you to set up meetings and events and interact with people and get the pulse of the people back home. How can you know what the people are saying if you’re not interacting with them all the time?

 

What was your biggest challenge and greatest accomplishment in your first year on Capitol Hill?

I think my biggest challenge has been figuring out the personalities, where to go, who to ask the right questions, who you can trust and who has the expertise in areas where you’re not as strong. With South Jersey’s third congressional district having the largest population of veterans in New Jersey, it was an honor when I was asked to chair the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. It’s great to do anything we can. Veterans took an oath, signed their name on the line and volunteered to go out and be in harm’s way. Now we have to uphold the promises we made to them.

 

Where do things stand today regarding the federal budget?

The budget passed in mid-December and will take us through the fiscal year, which ends in late October. That will create some of the stability we’re looking for.

I’m on the Armed Services Committee, and when the Department of Defense doesn’t know what their funding streams are going to be in three or four months, it’s really hard for them to procure a piece of equipment to get to the war fighters, which raises a level of frustration within the government and within the manufacturing communities.

 

Who do you endorse for President?

There’s a vetting process that’s going on through these primaries and the more candidates jump out in front early, the more it skews what people think. If you have enough votes out there and enough endorsements, people are going to start betting on the winning horse – it’s just human nature to do that. I’m just sitting back and seeing what’s going on.

 

Do you think any of the Republican candidates will be able to beat President Obama?

That’s up to the American people. That’s why we have this process. I’m always optimistic.

 

What was your New Year’s resolution?

I never verbally make resolutions, but subconsciously I tell myself I’ve got to lose 20 pounds. I haven’t missed a day of working out since the New Year, so that’s a start. There is a Congressional gym, but truthfully, all you need is a flat piece of land and a pair of sneakers, and you can get in a workout anywhere. You just have to be creative enough and understand exercise enough. I took a three-and-a-half-mile walk this morning, and I’m paying for it right now because my foot’s on fire. I’ll do yoga, work on flexibility, mix it up. I do cardiovascular fitness as much as I can, which is hard with two bad wheels, a knee and a foot. But you can work around things like that if you think about it.

 

What have you discovered about yourself during your first year as a Congressman?

One of the promises I made in my campaign was to not let this job change me and my outlook. I have stayed true to that. I think and reflect on that on a daily basis. I think that’s only going to benefit myself and my constituents.

 

Given the choice, what would you want to see first, an Eagles Super Bowl or a Republican majority in Congress?

A Republican majority in Congress would chronologically come before the Eagles’ Super Bowl, so we’ll take that first.

 

WEB BONUS

What happened to the Eagles this year?

A lack of team chemistry. The people you bring in are, 99 percent of the time, qualified for their position. The question is, can you get those personalities to work together. Can you get a read on those personalities fast enough to know how to motivate them, push their buttons but not push too far and actually lose them. I’ve always said building a team, whether it’s on the football field or in an office setting, is a chemistry experiment. Sometimes you mix a bunch of unknown chemicals together, and it’s going to blow up in your face.

 

Do you think the Eagles can get to a Super Bowl?

Yes. At the end of the season the Eagles turned it around, and hopefully they can build on that for next season. There were a lot of personnel changes and personality changes, and it takes time to develop that chemistry.

 

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?

My recreational time has become null, but it has turned into family time. Basketball has always been my first love, and all three of my children are very good basketball players, so it’s a pleasure to go out and watch them. The unfortunate part is, as many people who have children know, they never listen to any tips or pointers I have. You have to get someone else to tell them. I was actually a basketball player long before I was a football player. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.

 

What would people be really surprised to know about you?

The stuff I do around the house. My father was a mechanic and a handyman/jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. I have a lot of those skills, and I try to fix everything around my home. When I have down time and we’re not running to basketball games, I’m tinkering in the garage, fixing stuff around the house or in the yard.

 

How did you enjoy playing in the Congressional football game?

The football game is Congress against the police. We had a great time going out to practice every morning at 7 am. You have that camaraderie with the people on the other side of the aisle. We had a couple females out there also, so it’s not only bipartisan but also male and female. The only unfortunate part was that we had three or four people get hurt. I got hurt in the first quarter of the game, but being stubborn and never wanting to come out, I actually played the whole game. I probably hurt my foot more than I needed to.

February 2012
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