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Ex-NFL player, NJ candidate Runyan leaks own dirt

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GEOFF MULVIHILL | May 12, 2010 08:52 PM EST | AP

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MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. — As far as skeletons in the closet go, Wednesday's revelations about ex-NFL lineman and current congressional candidate Jon Runyan aren't campaign-killers: He was late on some property tax payments and has been sued in a couple of business deals.

But the source of the information was unexpected: Runyan gave it to reporters unprompted, saying it was better that it come from him than from his political opponents but shouldn't affect the race.

"I'm a different type of candidate," said the Republican, who's running in New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District. "With that, I take a lot of personal responsibility for things I do and say."

Runyan isn't the first politician to report his own flaws before his opponents could. President Barack Obama did it, in a way, by giving details of his past drug use in his 2003 book, "Dreams from My Father." And when New York Gov. David Paterson was taking office in March 2008, he admitted to a newspaper he and his wife had affairs during a rough patch in their marriage years before.

Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles lineman, is a political neophyte who faces Justin Murphy in next month's Republican primary. The winner will take on first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. John Adler in November in what some observers say could be one of the most competitive and expensive races in the nation this year.

Runyan's decision to release the details of his misdeeds comes after some other – juicier – scandals have been reported.

Last week, the political website PolitickerNJ reported Runyan admitted driving drunk in 1995 in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was attending the University of Michigan.

Earlier in the campaign, there were media reports about how parts of his 23-acre property in Mount Laurel qualify for tax breaks as forest or pasture land – even though the only agricultural activities there are miniature donkeys and small-scale firewood sales.

Also, his spotty voting record has been scrutinized.

Runyan said he believes political opponents may have led journalists to those stories.

"I didn't put it out there," he said.

The details he did put out show that he was late paying property taxes on his Mount Laurel home in 16 of the past 40 quarters – including every quarter in 2007 and 2009. He also was late paying tax bills on his Houston home at least once each year between 1999 and 2002.

Runyan said the late payments were because he was careless.

He also released details about a tax lien and lawsuit regarding the San Diego Riptide, an arena football team he owned in 2004 and 2005. And he disclosed he was sued by a writer with whom he had worked on a book starting in 2007. He said he settled that lawsuit last month – and that a confidentiality agreement prevented him from giving details.

While Runyan said he finds political dirt-digging to be distasteful, he didn't rule out releasing similar information about his opponents, if any surfaces.