The year was 2009, and Massachusetts had an open U.S. Senate seat.
Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, just six months into retirement and two years removed from earning his second World Series ring in Boston, said he may insert himself into the race to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Seven years later, much has changed for the former ace and conservative firebrand. But he is again floating the idea of a Senate run. Last week, he said on Facebook that he was considering a run for public office en route to an eventual presidential bid. And this week, he told a WRKO talk show that if he were to run, the seat once held by Kennedy — now filled by Sen. Elizabeth Warren — “would be the target.”
Schilling ultimately did not mount a run in 2009. After saying he was undecided about the prospect in early September, he ultimately dropped the idea a couple of weeks later.
But the prospect was taken seriously enough to warrant some early polling. A Suffolk University survey of 500 voters did not hold Schilling in a particularly positive light: 29 percent saw him favorably compared to a 39 percent unfavorable rating. Another 21 percent had heard of the Sox star but did not have a political opinion on him.
The Associated Press cited a Schilling blog post that is no longer online, saying he dropped out because he did not have the time to be a Senator. He called his family, his advocacy work fighting ALS, and his company — the video game firm 38 Studios — “the things that I need to commit my time to right now.”
Perhaps Schilling has more time on his hands in 2016, but controversies in business and on social media may have since affected his standing with voters.
The video game company collapsed in 2012, after moving to Rhode Island, lured by a $75 million state funding package. Schilling is not well-admired in the Ocean State, where the company’s bankruptcy stuck taxpayers with the bill. His favorability rating there in 2013 was 9 percent, with 74 percent holding an unfavorable view. Last week, Schilling blasted Rhode Islanders on Facebook as “dumbasses.”
Schilling went on to work as a baseball analyst with ESPN, but was fired after violating company policy by repeatedly using social media to talk about politics. The instance that led to his termination featured him posting a meme suggesting that people who favor allowing transgender people access to the bathroom with which they identify are endangering children’s safety. Prior to being passed into law, a bill providing transgender individuals access to their identified restroom and otherwise prohibiting discrimination had 53-30 support among Massachusetts voters.
According to the 2009 AP report, citing another now-unavailable blog post, Schilling laid out his political agenda while considering the Senate run. He said he was pro-life and opposed to gay marriage, and a strong supporter of the second amendment, according to the AP. However, he also suggested he saw a place for some gun control, writing: “Why should our Police Officers have to worry about automatic weapons? What logically thinking human would think it’s ok that a ‘citizen’ to carry a weapon capable of discharging 1000 rounds a minute?”
During his interview Monday, Schilling offered another outlook at his platform, saying he is “pro-life, very pro-second amendment, pro-the constitution. I believe that the state and the country has a right and a responsibility to protect the country first as a citizen and to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.”
As of last week, Schilling had not been in touch with the MassGOP about a potential 2018 run, a spokesman said. Schilling said Monday that he would not run if he was convinced a race was unwinnable — though he also said of the long odds that “the bigger the challenge the better.” He added that he would not mount a challenge if his wife said he shouldn’t.
A poll earlier this year found that Warren, a popular national liberal figure, has a 51-38 percent approval rating in Massachusetts. She has not directly stated whether she will seek reelection in 2018, but said last weekend: “This is not the place to announce a re-election bid, but I will tell you this: God, I really love this job.”
Schilling has long been politically minded, speaking in favor of President George W. Bush shortly after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series amid that year’s presidential election. He supported John McCain’s presidential campaign against Barack Obama in 2008. He also backed Scott Brown’s successful campaign for the Senate seat that Schilling ultimately chose not to run for. Brown won the race against Democrat Martha Coakley, but lost the seat to Warren in 2012.
Despite some early consternation, Schilling supports fellow outspoken conservative celebrity Donald Trump for president in 2016. He is a frequent critic of Hillary Clinton.