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Michigan Seems Like a Dream to Me Now
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, June 22, 2001

Question: I've been searching the Web high and low to find the results of the 1988 Republican presidential caucus process in Michigan, without much luck. What was the final result in terms of delegates that year?
– Tony Payton, Arlington, Va.

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"Unity" was hard to find at the 1988 Michigan GOP caucuses. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Michiganís process for selecting its Republican presidential delegates that year was quite unorthodox, to say the least. It began in the summer of 1986 when the party held precinct delegate elections in which the campaigns of Vice President George Bush, Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and the Rev. Pat Robertson all engaged in an expensive effort to woo delegates.

But after all was said and done, no one was really sure who came out on top, as the 10,000 or so precinct delegates selected did not have to declare their presidential candidate preference. The general feeling at the time was that Bush may have come away with a lead.

But then came the Michigan state GOP convention in January of í88, which was supposed to pick its 77 national delegates. The state was always thought to be Bush territory, considering the fact he easily defeated Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primary and was expected to triumph again. But religious conservatives who had won control of the party were challenging the status quo with a Kemp-Robertson alliance. As convention time approached, the Robertson campaign charged that the Bush folks had bought off the Kemp people with money and delegates.

The anger between the Bush and upstart Robertson camps grew so intense that the Robertson faction wound up holding a separate convention. The Bush-dominated meeting – the one recognized by the state party chairman – chose 37 delegates for Bush, 32 for Kemp and eight for Robertson. The breakaway convention had it 43 for Robertson, 21 for Kemp and 13 for Bush.

The courts ultimately ruled in favor of the Bush forces and seated the delegates in the Bush-dominated meeting. But, it was not an especially shining moment for anyone, as all three candidates came away bruised. Kemp was seen as having sold out conservative principles by the Robertson people. Robertson showed that for all the fervor of his "invisible army," he was less able to put together the kind of coalitions that more experienced political veterans manage to do all the time. And Bush, who once upon a time saw Michigan as a "gimme," gamely said afterwards that his win gave him great momentum going into Iowaís caucuses a week later. P.S. Bush finished a shocking third in Iowa, behind Sen. Bob Dole (who bypassed Michigan) and Robertson.

As for those two competing slates of Michigan delegates, the anticipated fight at the GOP national convention never came to be. Robertson, Kemp and Dole were long gone from the race by August, when Bush won the nomination on a unanimous first ballot, with the votes of all 77 Michigan delegates.

Question: With Al Gore a potential (though unlikely) candidate for senator or governor of Tennessee next year and Janet Reno a possibility for governor of Florida, Iím wondering how many people have gone from high national office to lower federal or state positions? The three I can think of were Claude Pepper (D-Fla.), a senator from 1933-51 who later became a congressman from 1963-89; James Michael Curley (D-Mass.), governor of Massachusetts from 1935-37 who was elected to the House in 1942; and Tom Campbell, who served in the California state Senate after giving up his House seat in 1992. Can you think of others?
– Mike Marcucci, West Roxbury, Mass.

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A dozen years separated Claude Pepper's Senate and House careers. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: The most obvious answer of course is John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, who two years after leaving the White House was elected to Congress from Massachusetts. At least 50 senators went on to serve in the House, as Claude Pepper did, though just two others in the past half-century: Alton Lennon (D-N.C.), who served in the Senate briefly in the early 1950s and then went on to the House for 16 years until his retirement in 1972; and Matthew Neely (D-W.Va.), who went from the House (1913-21) to the Senate (1923-29, 1931-40) to the governorship (1941-44), back to the House (1945-46) and then back to the Senate (1949-58).

Alben Barkley (D-Ky.) and Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) both returned to the Senate after serving as vice president. Should Janet Reno be elected in Florida next year, she would join other Cabinet or White House officials who won elective office after their stints in the administration, such as Abe Ribicoff (D-Conn.), Clinton Anderson (D-N.M.), Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.), Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.), and Brock Adams (D-Wash.).

There are also those House members who gave up their jobs or left Washington after their tenure to become their citiesí mayors, but Iím not sure if that is necessarily considered a lower office. Iím thinking of people like Fiorello La Guardia, John Lindsay and Ed Koch in New York City; Norris Poulson and Sam Yorty in Los Angeles; Harold Washington in Chicago, Hugh Addonizio in Newark; Andrew Young in Atlanta; Steve Bartlett in Dallas, and Bill Green in Philadelphia, among others. And Mike Castle (R-Del.) went from governor to congressman. But in Delaware, congressman is also a statewide office, and Castle may be planning a future Senate bid.

Some more off the top of my head: Bill Burlison, who served 12 years in the House as a Missouri Democrat until his defeat in 1980, is now a councilman in Marylandís Anne Arundel County; and former Arizona GOP congressman and 1976 Senate nominee Sam Steiger is currently the mayor of Prescott.

Question: Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia served as an independent for many years. Did he first run as an independent, or did he defect from one of the two major parties? If the latter, when did he switch, and for how many terms was he re-elected? Was he related to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the venerable Senate president pro tem?
– Dan Haifley, Santa Cruz, Calif.

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Virginia had a Byrd in the Senate for a half-century. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: The Virginia senator to whom you refer is Harry Byrd Jr. He is not related to Robert Byrd, but instead was the son of the late Harry Flood Byrd Sr., the longtime Democratic boss of Old Dominion politics and a giant on Capitol Hill – a man so powerful that they coined a phrase that reflected his influence of four decades in the state: the "Byrd Machine."

The senior Byrd was elected governor in 1925 and served four years. In 1933, Sen. Claude Swanson (D) resigned to become Secretary of the Navy under FDR, and Byrd Sr. was named to fill the Senate seat. He was subsequently elected six times (1934, '40, '46, '52, '58 and '64). But by 1965, Byrd, 78 years old and in failing health, resigned his seat. His son, state Sen. Harry Byrd Jr., was appointed as his successor the following day.

The younger Byrd quickly realized that Virginia was in transition, no longer the bastion of segregation that it was under his father. Plus, the state Democratic Party was rapidly becoming more liberal, as blacks were registering to vote in unprecedented numbers. Byrd was challenged in the special 1966 Democratic primary by state Sen. Armistead Boothe, who eagerly sought black votes. The result was a shocking rebuke of the Byrd Machine. Harry Jr. barely survived with a 51-48 percent win over Boothe, but liberals succeeded in knocking off the state's other conservative senator, A. Willis Robertson, in the primary.

By 1970, the machine was no longer. Its candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in '69 finished a poor third in the primary. State party leaders had passed a loyalty oath that required their candidates to support all Democratic nominees in future elections. This was the last straw for Byrd, who announced on March 17, 1970 that he would seek re-election as an independent. Though both the Democrats and Republicans put up candidates against him, Byrd had a lock on the conservative vote and won an easy victory in the fall. In 1976 he ran again as an independent – this time with no GOP opposition – and won convincingly over Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the Democratic nominee. Sen. Byrd retired in 1982, and his seat went Republican.

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 2001 Ken Rudin


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