The 49 Republicans in the United States Senate are a colorful group of individuals that share many striking similarities. Their different backgrounds and career paths mesh together to create men and women that are as alike as they are in contrast. They have voting records that range from the extreme right to siding with the Democrats on various issues and being relatively moderate. The tie that binds these individuals together ultimately is partisan belief in Republican ideals, as vast and broad as that definition may be. The United States Senate has long been thought of as the mecca of elite, patriarchal ideas. The education level of the Republican Senators is impressive, many have secondary degrees.
Another evident trend in the members is attendance at Ivy League schools and universities. Ted Stevens, Alaska, received his J.D. from Harvard Law, along with Mike Crapo, Idaho. Peter Fitzgerald, the youngest member of the Senate, Illinois, has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth. Christopher Bond of Missouri received his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University. Also worth noting is Richard Lugar, senior senator from Indiana, who attended Dennison and Oxford and is a Rhodes Scholar. Obviously, there is no education requirement to be a member of the U.S. Senate.
The pattern is that most have degrees or notable military service, although not all members of the Senate finished their education. For example, Jesse Helms attended two institutions of higher learning (Wake Forest being one), but did not finish his degree. Education has increasing significance in running for office and this trend will likely continue to be prominent. Many current Senators have strong military backgrounds instead of the strong educational resumes aforementioned. The most famous of these is Senator John McCain, Arizona, who was a Navy pilot shot in Vietnam. He spent five years as a prisoner of war and refused early release (because of his father's rank) over those who had been in internment longer.
Upon returning to the United States, he accepted his final assignment from the Navy and became a Senate Liaison. McCain is the closest thing we have to a modern day national hero. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado, was in the Air Force and served in Korea. Jesse Helms, North Carolina, was in the Navy during World War II. The Senate Republicans are representative of all different branches of the armed services, including even the Army National Guard, which Larry Craig, Idaho, served. The Coast Guard is also represented by Frank Murkowski of Alaska.
The military has been thought of much differently since the end of the Cold War. Although, the terrorist attacks of September 11th have brought the military back into the limelight and enrollment into the nation's armed services has increased with the sense of patriotism that has washed over the Nation. Politically, having a military background is a plus on any candidate's resume. Not only do veterans make up a huge voting block, but during the campaign many swing voters can be persuaded with the military image. The most common trend in the Senate, which exists on both sides of the aisle, are candidates with Juris Doctorate's that were practicing attorneys or attorney generals. Both Senators from Alabama, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, along with both Mississippians, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, practiced law.
The list of practicing attorneys goes on and on. This trend seems logical because a good working knowledge of the law would seem like a prerequisite for making the laws in Congress. There are other occupations of interest. John Ensign, Nevada, and Wayne Allard, Colorado, are both veterinarians. Bill Frist, Tennessee, is a heart and lung transplant surgeon and the Senate's only M.D. Larry Craig, Idaho, and Charles Grassley, Iowa, are both farmers and ranchers by trade. One of the more interesting occupational backgrounds is Jim Bunning, Kentucky, who was a professional baseball player and even inducted into baseball's hall of fame.
Tim Hutchinson, Arkansas, is a minister. While being an attorney seems the most logical career for the potential office holder, having other careers has brought out these politicians as experts in their field of study when legislative issues concerning animals, healthcare, etc. come to the Senate floor. Several of the Republican members can be considered Capitol Hill insiders, because of their occupational background as staffers for former members of Congress. Jesse Helms worked as an Administrative Assistant for Senator Willis Smith and Senator Alton Lennon back in the early 1950's. Peter Fitzgerald was an intern for Representative Philip Crane and later went on to challenge Crane for his seat in 1994. Pat Roberts was an A.A. for Congressman Sebelius and Senator Carlson.
In 1980 when Sebelius retired, Roberts ran for his seat and won. Susan Collins, Maine, was a Legislative Aide and Staff Director for Senator Cohen for 16 years. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, worked for Senator Cook. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska, was an A.A. for Representative Mccallister and then a lobbyist for years inside the beltway.
The knowledge of the inner workings of Capitol Hill has its ups and downs for hopeful candidates. They know what to expect in all aspects of the job, but many are accused during the campaign cycle of being out of touch with the voters and unable to relate to the common needs of the voters in Anytown, U.S.A. Republican Senate members for the most part have a long history of public service under their belt. Most people would not even consider waging a Senate race without years of political history and experience to call upon during the campaign. Not to mention the cost of running a successful Senate campaign has become astronomical. A few have been elected to the Senate with no prior offices held. Frank Murkowski was elected in 1980 and has since been elected three times.
John Kyl, Arizona, was elected to the Senate in 1994. Kyl's father was a Congressman from Iowa, who eventually relinquished his seat as a result of redistricting. Lastly, Susan Collins obtained her first political office as a U.S. Senator in 1996 after an ill-fated attempted at the Maine Governor's race in 1994, where she only received 23% of the vote. It is extremely common for Senators to hold office at the state level in a variety of different types of positions. Mike Crapo was elected to the Idaho State Senate at the age of 33 in 1984. Four years later, he became State Senate Leader.
Richard Shelby spent six years as a State Senator in Alabama. Tim Hutchinson was a member of the Arkansas State House from 1984 to 1992. Most simply use there experience at the state legislature as a steppingstone to greener pastures. Some take slightly different paths to the Senate. Richard Lugar, Indiana, was mayor of Indianapolis before trying his hand at a Senate race, which is less common.
George Voinovich has an outstanding and long career of service where he has pretty much held every office. Voinovich started out in 1966 in the Ohio House of Representatives. In 1971, he seemingly took a step back and became County Auditor. Then followed up with a brief stint as a County Commissioner. In 1978, Voinovich became Ohio's Lieutenant Governor. He spent the next 10 years as the mayor of Cleveland.
In 1990, Voinovich served two terms as Ohio's governor. Finally, in 1998 he was ready to run for Senate with an impressive background and off the chart name recognition. Christopher Bond was also governor of Missouri from 1972-1976 and 1980-1984. Running for Governor adequately prepares the candidate for running for Senate because both require a massive state wide campaign unlike any other seat. For the most part this group of current Republicans are winners, but a few have hit bumps in their career along the way and had devastating losses. Charles Grassley ran for the State House in 1956 and lost by a mere 70 votes, however he came back and was able to win in 1958.
Richard Shelby ran for the Senate in 1978 and lost the Democratic primary. Jim Bunning lost the Kentucky governor's race in 1983. In 1970, Pete Domenici lost the New Mexico governor's race to Bruce King. All of losses created learning experiences for these candidates and they managed to not become discouraged and come back as stronger candidates in their next races.
The majority of Republican Senators developed their Capitol Hill savvy while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Many simply bid their time and gained experience until a Senate seat become open or a member lost the public's favor. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire, spent eight years in the House. He left to serve a term as governor.
Gregg then returned to Capitol Hill as a Senator in 1992. Mike Dewine, Ohio, has a similar pattern to Gregg. Dewine served in the House for six years from 1982-1990. Then left to be Lieutenant Governor from 1990-1994. Dewine returned to Capitol Hill as a Senator in 1994. Larry Craig spent ten years paying his dues in the House.
Trent Lott, Missouri, has one of the longer records of House service. Lott was a Representative from 1972-1988, during the end of which time period he was Republican whip. The United States Senate is considered a step up from the House of Representatives, since only two Senators serve to represent the whole state. For many candidates, the House is where they gain credibility for future Senate races. Aspirations do not always end with the Senate, several members of the Senate would like nothing more than to be President. Three current members have vied for that spot.
Richard Lugar ran for President in 1996 on a platform calling for "nuclear security and financial sanity". Lugar also supported a 17% national sales tax. He received little coverage though and soon left the race. A more interesting character was Bob Smith, New Hampshire, who rose on the Senate floor in July of 1999 and gave a 50 minute speech saying he would leave the party and run for President. He received no support from his colleagues and rejoined the party November 1st, after a colleague died and he became Chairman of the Environment Committee. The most notable candidate was John McCain who ran for President against Bush in 2000.
McCain won the New Hampshire primary with an impressive 49% of the vote. From that point on, his candidacy has mixed success. He finally "suspended" his campaign on March 9th. There was speculation as to McCain being a possible running mate for Bush; however, McCain had no interest in the vice presidential bid. He has said the campaign was a memorable experience, but would not do it again. It is likely that Senators will continue to run for President, since it is the highest office and there is no other stepping stone past the Senate.
A couple of the current Republican members were not always Republicans. Richard Shelby, who had always been a conservative Southern Democrat switched parties when the Republican took back the House in 1994. Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched to the Republican party in 1995, three years after being elected to the Senate as a Democrat. He was fairly moderate in his six years as a Representative. The switch was made the day after the balanced budget amendment failed. The decision came partly out of irritation at Denver area liberals.
Party switching is much less common at the Senate level, but occasionally happens when candidates who are moderate away become fed up with their party or want more political leverage. There are no term limits on Senators, but several members of the Senate are in favor of such limits. Jesse Helms who has been in the Senate since 1972 is obviously not one of these Senators. A couple have even imposed term limits on themselves. Ben Nighthorse Campbell has pledged to serve no more than three terms. Peter Fitzgerald and Susan Collins have both pledged to serve no more than two terms.
Tim Hutchinson is in favor of term limits, but has not imposed any upon himself. Term limits is expected to continue to be a campaign issue in the new age of career politicians. Several of the Republicans have a tendency to behave more like Democrats than the moderates on the other side of the aisle. John McCain consistently sides with Democrats on issues and is crusader for campaign finance against his colleague McConnell and fights to stop pork barreling.
Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Maine, vote similarly and with their pro-choice stances fall in line as moderates instead of conservatives. Snowe was even the least conservative in her freshman Senate class. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania, is also considered one of the Senate moderates. Ben Nighthorse Campbell consistently flips on the issues, but he did switch parties and has a tendency to be middle of the road. The "Contract with America" has been a reoccurring theme since its introduction by Newt Gingrich in 1994. The ideas of increased tax cuts, balanced budgets, line item vetoes. and a passion for reform popped up in several current members first Senate races.
Mike Crapo is one member that seems to have got elected on the Contract's principles. Tim Hutchinson's message also echoed these beliefs. Sam Brownback's message was one of "Reduce, Reform, and Return". This passion for reform has allowed many of these Senators to obtain a near-perfect conservative voting record. Not all are insiders that tow the conservative line. Richard Lugar is stubborn and follows what he believes is best for Indiana regardless of the political risk.
This have kept is popularity high in the state, but not at the national level. Charles Grassley still runs his farm and goes back to Iowa every weekend. He holds town hall meetings every year and remains enormously popular. In 1992, he carried all 99 of Illinois's counties.
These stories are not the norm for the Senate, many candidates come to Washington and quickly become out of touch with their constituency. To give them credit, it is nearly impossible to represent the beliefs and ideas of a whole state many have different demographics from county to county. Each member of the U.S. Senate has a different a different career path than their colleagues. However, the things they all have in common are hard work, perseverance, intelligence, and drive without these things none of them would have made it to the Senate. The Senate is tough to get to and often times even tougher to stay in, but candidates have six long years to represent their constituencies hone their ideas and polish their image. If they can do those things well, than they can have a long, prosperous career.