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Is Lazio's House Seat Now In Play?
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, May 26, 2000

Question: Does the decision of Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) to seek the Republican nomination for the Senate further complicate the GOP's chances of maintaining control of Congress? I know that Democrats have had some success on Long Island over the past few years. How good are the chances of the Democratic candidate running to replace Lazio? – Peter Handler, New York, N.Y.
Lazio's district becomes the 24th open seat the GOP must defend. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: It is certainly not good news for Republicans to have to defend another open House seat. Republican incumbents are vacating 24 seats, compared to eight for the Democrats. This would have been a safe GOP seat had Lazio run for a fifth term, but now it is competitive. Republicans may rally around Peter McGowan, the Islip town supervisor in Suffolk County. But if he doesn't run, there will be no shortage of other contenders. Democratic possibilities include county legislator David Bishop, Babylon Supervisor Richard Shaffer and Huntington council member Steve Israel. My early guess is that the GOP holds onto the seat.

Question: Why was it "okay" with the press that President Clinton committed adultery with Monica Lewinsky, et al., yet Rudy Giuliani was crucified for what was, at least, a relationship and not a series of one-night stands? – Barb Link, Callaway, Md.

Answer: I don't know if I would go along with your characterization that the media was "okay" with Clinton's extra-marital relationships. Polls did show that the public, while repulsed by his conduct, did not want to see him removed from office. Similar polls in New York showed voters not particularly concerned about Giuliani's new lady friend, despite the day in, day out front-page coverage by the tabloids. In addition, their wives dealt with the news differently. Hillary Clinton always stuck by her husband, at least in public. In fact, she made a practice of attacking his enemies for concocting the story. Donna Hanover, Giuliani's wife, expressed her bitterness at a sidewalk press conference after the mayor's announcement that he wanted a separation. Apparently she did not know of his plans until he revealed them to the media.

Question: As a CPA, I was interested to read recently that the only CPA who ran for president was T. Coleman Andrews of Virginia in 1956. While I know that isn't a true statement (former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, Ross Perot's challenger for the Reform Party nomination in 1996, is also a CPA), could you tell me more about Andrews? – Frank Ferrari, Sr., Mesa, Ariz.
This third-party ticket was inconsequential to the 1956 election. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Andrews, who after World War I was the nation's youngest certified public accountant, served effectively for two years as President Eisenhower's IRS commissioner until he quit in 1955 to crusade against the income tax. Conservative leaders drafted him in late 1956 to run for president on a platform that included states' rights and calls for deep cuts in domestic and foreign spending. Andrews was on the ballot in 14 states under different party names, usually the States Rights Party or the Constitution Party. His running mate was former Rep. Thomas Werdel (R-Calif.), a conservative whose opposition to then-Gov. Earl Warren in the 1952 California presidential primary was instrumental to his losing his House seat that fall.

The ticket won support from anti-Communists, Citizens Councils members, third-party splinter groups, veterans of the Thurmond-Wright States Rights campaign of 1948, patriotic organizations and those who saw the Republicans and Democrats as peas in a pod. Its leaders included nationally known conservatives such as Clarence Manion, Dan Smoot, and former New Jersey governor Charles Edison. Andrews, who did not begin his campaign until after the two major parties held their conventions, won more than 150,000 votes nationwide, or 0.2 percent. His strongest showing was in Virginia, where he received 6.2 percent of the vote (43,000 votes). He did better than any other third-party candidate in the presidential race that year, but he was hardly a factor in the outcome. President Eisenhower won reelection by a landslide – nine and a half million votes – over Adlai Stevenson.

In 1958 Andrews helped found the John Birch Society. In 1968, he was active in segregationist causes and supported George Wallace's independent presidential effort. Andrews died in 1983 at the age of 84. His grandson, T. Coleman Andrews III, is active in Republican politics in Virginia.

Question: Does anyone remember the Senate politics from Oklahoma in the late 1950s and early 1960s? I seem to recall that something happened to Sen. Robert Kerr (D), and then Gov. J. Howard Edmondson resigned and let Lt. Gov. George Nigh appoint him to the Senate. Edmondson then died – setting up a race between former University of Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson, a Republican, and little-known state legislator Fred Harris, a Democrat. How did Harris, a very liberal candidate, win the Democratic nomination and then the general election? – Greg Bledsoe, Tulsa, Okla.
Fred Harris had LBJ's coattails to pull him to victory in 1964. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: One revision: Edmondson didn't die. He lost to Harris in the 1964 Democratic primary. Here's what happened:

Kerr, one of the most powerful members of the Senate, died on Jan. 1, 1963. Within days, Gov. Edmondson resigned and had himself appointed to fill the Senate vacancy. Harris had a liberal reputation in later years, but in 1964 he was no more liberal than Edmondson. The real issue was the strong resentment over the way Edmondson maneuvered his own Senate appointment. In the initial multi-candidate primary, he finished with a narrow lead but failed to win a majority. Harris, backed by the Kerr family, swamped Edmondson in the runoff.

Had President Kennedy still been alive, Barry Goldwater likely would have carried the state in November and brought Wilkinson along with him. But by 1964, Lyndon Johnson had become president, and Harris, who clung to LBJ's coattails, eked out a win over Wilkinson.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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