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Until We Meet Again
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, Sept. 7, 2001

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the tremendous response to the news that "Political Junkie" column and the "ScuttleButton" button contest are ending their run on washingtonpost.com. I always knew there was an audience for features like these and that belief was confirmed when I received close to 50 e-mails a day, filled with questions from readers around the world. But the hundreds and hundreds of notes that have arrived in the past two weeks have been incredible. They've been appreciated more than you know.

What made this a very special column is that the questions broached every possible political topic. There were the obvious ones, of course - who's going to win the Senate in 2002, how is the Democratic presidential field shaping up, etc. But then there were the off-the-wall questions that I just loved. Questions about presidential tickets comprised of candidates with the same first name. Re-election rates of members of Congress caught in scandal. "Dark Horse" candidates for president. Faithless electors. Relatives who have served together in Congress. Third-party and independent candidates elected to office. Self-appointed senators. The list is endless. And each column was illustrated with classic campaign buttons from my personal collection.

But even more rewarding was the interaction with readers. Someone once wrote asking how many former senators were still living. I went through my files and came up with 131 names. A short time later a reader not only informed me that there were 134, but he then proceeded to list every one of them! My relationship with participants in the ScuttleButton contest was equally special. Probably nothing tops the effort of Andrew Conneen, a teacher at Adlai Stevenson High School in Illinois who often presented the puzzles to his students as assignments. Andrew took one particular puzzle - "Root Root Root for the Home Team" - and put it on the t-shirts of his intramural softball team, which was called "Team ScuttleButtons." Reading all your mail often kept me up late at night. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

I'm sorry that this column is ending, but I anticipate it will re-appear at another location. To get yourself on the official "Political Junkie" mailing list, so you can be the first on your block to know when and where, you can reach me at, appropriately, politicaljunkie@erols.com.

The complaint about politics is that it has become personal, vindictive, petty and ugly. I've tried, through this column and my work as political editor for National Public Radio, to make it fascinating. And fun. I've always felt that you can't talk about baseball today without talking about players of the past. The same goes for politics. You can't talk about campaigns of the present without one eye on the classic races and participants of yesteryear. That's what I tried to convey in this column. It means a lot to me that you feel the same way.

Okay, on to a few, final questions:

Question: I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your column for quite some time, and it will be sorely missed. However, I do have one final question. With all the rumors regarding possible or future retirements in the Senate, I'm wondering who would be standing for president pro tempore if the Republicans regain the Senate in the 2002 elections. Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms are retiring, so it won't be them. To my knowledge, that leaves as the longest serving Republican senators Pete Domenici (N.M.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah). Which one of these men would hold the ceremonial gavel?
– Brian Busch, San Marcos, Texas

Stevens becomes Prez Pro Tem if the GOP wins back the Senate in 2002. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Of the three senators you cite, Domenici has the most seniority; he's been in the Senate since 1973, while Hatch wasn't elected until 1976 and Specter in 1980. But with Thurmond retiring, the senior Republican senator will now become (assuming he wins re-election next year) Ted Stevens of Alaska, who has been in office since Dec. 24, 1968.

But let's assume that the candidates for the most senior member of the majority party all came to the Senate at the same time. To break the tie, seniority is determined by prior Senate service, then by time in the House, then tenure as governor. If the members are still tied, Republicans draw lots to determine the most senior; Democrats pick the senator from the state with the greater population.

Question: What is the name of the African American who was nominated for vice president at the 1968 Democratic convention but had to withdraw because he was too young?

Bond withdrew his name at the '68 Dem convention. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: It was a then-unknown state legislator from Georgia by the name of Julian Bond. Nominated by a Eugene McCarthy delegate from Wisconsin, Bond was only 28 years old at the time, seven short of the Constitutionally-required 35. He still managed to get 48-1/2 delegates, though nowhere near the total received by Sen. Ed Muskie of Maine. A longtime civil rights activist, Bond is currently the chairman of the NAACP.

Question: Why, in your Aug. 17 column, did you write, "There has never been a case in which a losing presidential ticket ran twice in a row?" In 1952 the Democratic ticket was Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver, and in 1956 it was Stevenson/Kefauver again. They lost to Eisenhower/Nixon both times. How does that not qualify as a "losing presidential ticket that ran twice in a row"?
– Gordon Kolm

The 1952 Dem ticket carried just nine states against Ike & Nixon. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Several other readers asked the same question. Actually, Stevenson's running mate in 1952 was not Kefauver - who sought the presidential nomination and lost out to Stevenson - but Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama.

Once again, thanks to the thousands of readers who have sent in marvelous and intriguing questions over the past three years. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience. I'll keep you posted.

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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