Politics 2003Week of August 25

HAMER H. BUDGE, R.I.P. When House Republican Leader Charles W. Halleck (Ind.) shared an intimate breakfast with Lyndon B. Johnson shortly after he became President in 1963 (with, as Halleck beamed, “thick bacon, just the kind a fellow like me from Indiana would like”), a number of his fellow GOP lawmakers were furious that their top man had “sold out” to LBJ. When Johnson continued to court and meet convivially with Halleck, it was the beginning of the end for the Hoosier congressman and he was deposed in late 1964 in favor of Rep. Gerald Ford (Mich.) who was actually considered more combative. But one good thing that apparently came out of Halleck’s breakfasts with the wily Texan that pleased conservatives was the appointment of his good friend, former Rep. (1950-60) Hamer Budge (R.-Idaho), to a vacancy on the Securities and Exchange Commission. Dubbing Budge a “right-wing Republican,” pundits Evans and Novak concluded at the time that “Budge’s only apparent qualification for the job was his intimate friendship with Charley Halleck.” Budge went on to shine as an SEC member, was named its chairman by President Nixon in 1969, and then left two years later to head the Investors Mutual Funds of Minneapolis, Minn. When “Judge Budge” (the name stuck after he had served as a state district judge in his native Idaho from 1961-64) died of cancer on July 22 at age 92, his lightning political career and credentials as a conservative leader were widely (and warmly) recalled. The son of Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Alfred Budge, Hamer showed promise by finishing grade school in five years and a four-year high school course in three years. At 16, he entered the College of Idaho at Caldwell and then earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University. Budge got his law degree from the University of Idaho in 1936 and started a practice in Boise. Politics, however, had intrigued the precocious Budge from childhood. Having been a page in the state senate while a teenager, he won election to the state house at 29 and served until he joined the U.S. Navy in 1942. Following his discharge, he returned to the house in 1948 and was elected Republican floor leader. In 1950, he won the open U.S. House seat in southwestern Idaho and quickly established himself as a conservative leader. He was tapped for the Interior Committee in his first term and, in his second, to serve on the Appropriations Committee as well. He later became the first Idaho congressman ever to serve on the powerful Rules Committee. After a decade in Congress, as HUMAN EVENTS noted in 1959, Budge was one of only 32 House members (22 Republicans and ten Democrats) to have a record of voting “100% anti-ADA [Americans for Democratic Action].” In 1958, he was made a major target by the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. Glen Dyer, former business representative of the Plumbers and Fitters Union, charged that he was summoned to a meeting of labor officials in Boise and told that COPE would finance his campaign if he would run against Budge and go along with them “all the way.” Dyer refused, and then said, “I may not win, but believe me, I will sleep good.” Budge survived that year, but in 1960, was finally defeated by Democrat Ralph Harding. CHILDREN OF TRAGEDY COMPETE IN VIRGINIA August 2 was the 25th anniversary of a tragedy that dramatically changed the course of modern Virginia political history. Two months after he won a thrilling convention battle to come the Republican nominee for U.S. senator from Virginia, lawyer and former State Party Chairman Richard Obenshain perished when a twin-engine Piper PA34 carrying him to a campaign appearance crashed in the trees a fraction of a mile short of the Chesterfield County Airport. Killed with the 42-year-old candidate were pilot Richard Neel, also 42, of Alexandria, and 28-year-old flight instructor Ronald A. Edden of Camp Springs, Md. “Obenshain was hailed in death, as in life, as the architect of the modern Virginia Republican Party and its winning conservative coalition,” wrote Frank Atkinson in The Dynamic Dominion, his very readable history of the GOP in Virginia, “and as a singularly articulate and devoted apostle of conservative tenets.” Twenty-five years later, the children of Obenshain and his friend and pilot Neel are vying for the position of party chairman from which the late Senate candidate crafted the modern Republican Party in the Old Dominion. Kate Obenshain Griffin of Winchester County, 33-year-old assistant to Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.) when he was governor (1993-97), is actively running to succeed outgoing State Chairman Gary Thomson, who resigned after pleading guilty in a 17-month –old scandal over the wiretapping of Democratic officials by state GOP operatives. Her leading opponent is Mount Vernon lawyer Richard Neel, Jr., who is state party treasurer. Both are considered strong conservatives, but Griffin is said to be the front-runner—in large part because of the reverence in which her father is still held by party activists. She has Already been endorsed for chairman by Allen and State Atty. Gen. Jerry Kilgore. The governing body of the state party organization, the State Central Committee, will elect the new chairman on September 6. STATEHOUSE UPDATE To the surprise of few, two governors who have been mired in controversy announced last week that they would not seek re-election in ’04. Democrat Robert Wise of West Virginia and Republican Judy Martz of Montana both cited their need to deal with personal troubles as the chief reason for standing down. Wise had recently admitted an extramarital affair. Martz conceded she had cared for and washed the clothes of her top policy adviser after he crashed a car, killing the state house majority leader. She harbored him overnight without calling the police. Montana’s first woman governor, however, insisted that her desire to spend more time with her husband (who stayed in Butte after she moved to the governor’s residence in Helena) was the chief reason for her exit. With polls showing Martz’s approval ratings at record lows, three Republican heavyweights had already announced their intention to run for governor regardless of what she did. The almost-certain Democratic nominee is businessman Brian Schweitzer, who lost a squeaker of a Senate race to Republican Conrad Burns in 2000. Similarly, Wise was facing a renomination challenge from Secretary of State Joe Manchin. While Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R.) had disappointed many West Virginia Republicans by announcing that she would not run for the governorship held by her father from 1968-76 and 1988-92, at least three GOPers were vying for their party’s gubernatorial nomination. Days before the announced exits of Wise and Martz, President Bush tapped Utah’s three-term Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt to be head of the Environmental Protection Administration. Leavitt, never a popular figure with right-of-center Republicans was almost sure to face a renomination challenge had he opted for a fourth term—most likely from former Rep. (1980-2002) and House Interior Committee Chairman Jim Hansen. Now it is unclear what will happen should the governor be confirmed and fellow Republican and Lt. Gov. Oline Walker becomes the first woman governor of the Beehive State. Meanwhile, Utah Democrats have apparently recruited their strongest gubernatorial standard-bearer in recent years—Scott Matheson, Jr. , namesake-son of Utah’s popular governor from 1976-84 and brother of Salt Lake City-area Rep. Jim Matheson