Richard G. Smolka dies; AU professor and elections specialist

November 15, 2013

Richard G. Smolka, a professor in American University’s School of Public Affairs who specialized in political campaigns and elections, died Nov. 5 at his home in Mesa, Ariz. He was 81.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his son, Stephen P. Smolka.

From 1962 to 1993, Dr. Smolka taught in School of Public Affairs. For 24 years, he was an in-studio consultant for WRC (Channel 4) in Washington on election nights, making projections on winners and losers in various contests. He had also been a consultant for media outlets on foreign elections and done media consulting on the Bush-Gore presidential election standoff in 2000.

Richard Gregory Smolka was born in Cleveland. He served in the Army from 1954 to 1956 and in 1959 graduated from American. At AU, he also received a master’s degree in 1961 and a doctorate in 1966, both in government.

In 1971, he founded a biweekly newsletter, Election Administration Reports, which he edited for 40 years. The newsletter reported on congressional legislation related to elections and voting law and procedures.

In 2001, Dr. Smolka received the Freedom Award from the National Association of Secretaries of State for contributions to election administration.

He moved to Arizona from Washington in 2010.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Peggy Farrell Smolka of Mesa; six children, Daniel M. Smolka, a U.S. Foreign Service officer stationed in Barbados, Michael T. Smolka of Mesa, Gregory L. Smolka of Groton, Mass., Stephen P. “Bo” Smolka of Baltimore, Mary M. Csernica of Lewisburg, Pa., and David A. “Dewey” Smolka of Chicago; two sisters; and 15 grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes

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