Politics 2005: Week of April 11

Flaking Out on Term Limits

One of the biggest political questions in Arizona has been whether Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, who holds the securely Republican 6th District seat, would honor his 2000 “three-terms-I’m-out” campaign promise and step down next year. Speculation that Flake (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 93%) would break his promise and run again was fueled last fall when his close friend and fellow conservative stalwart, former Rep. (1994-2000) and ’02 GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon, decided to become state party chairman, succeeding retiring Chairman Bob Fannin. “Mr. Salmon had previously expressed an interest in returning to Congress if there was a vacancy in the 6th District,” Flake spokesman Matt Specht told me.

Sure enough, Flake finally opted to run for re-election. In taking the course that a growing number of former “term-limiters” have chosen in recent years, Flake told reporters that “while I did see the potential downside to self-imposed term limits [in his first campaign], I thought that the pluses outweighed the minuses. I was wrong. As much as I hate to admit making a mistake, I made a big one here.”

So the congressman will try to overcome his mistake by running for re-election in ’06. He also addressed the fact that breaking a promise “will be a legitimate campaign issue,” and said, “In truth it ought to be. But I am comfortable leaving it up to the voters.”


Predictably angry was Paul Jacob of U.S. Term Limits, whose organization supported Flake in the 2000 primary after he signed their “three-terms-I’m-out” pledge.

“The most disappointing thing about Jeff Flake’s flaking out on term limits,” Jacob told me, “is that it completely ruins the chances of his being governor, senator, President–anything other than a House member. He will never move up because people will just not trust him to limit government if he’s unable to limit himself.”

Jacob cited the history of House members who have signed his pledge since 1994 and then either honored it or broke it. “Of those who have signed it, 20 have kept it and 16 have broken it–seven of them in Congress today,” he said, naming Flake, and Republican Representatives Zach Wamp (Tenn.) and Lee Terry (Neb.) as the promise-breakers. The lone Democrat on that list is Rep. Martin Meehan (Mass.). No one has ever lost his House seat as a result of breaking a term-limit pledge, Jacob admitted.

He then quickly cited the example of the lone promise-breaker who ran for higher office: former Rep. (1994-2004) George Nethercutt (R.-Wash.), who unseated Democratic Rep. (1964-94) and House Speaker (1989-94) Tom Foley in part by promising to step down after three terms. Nethercutt then broke the promise and remained in the House. But when Nethercutt decided to run for the Senate last year, Jacob pointed out, “[Democratic incumbent] Patty Murray repeatedly pounded him in television commercials for breaking his promise and he lost badly. I might add that in the same year, the Republican candidate for governor almost won the governorship of Washington State.

Missouri Waltz

The first special elections in Missouri since the Republican sweep of the governorship in November yielded mixed and rather puzzling results. In two races for the state Senate last week that drew statewide media attention and national involvement from both parties, Republicans won a dramatic upset in a Jefferson County (St. Louis) district that has been in Democratic hands since 1958. However, Democrats ran a conservative candidate and picked up a mid-Missouri Senate district long considered securely in Republican hands.

Overall, the voting in the Show-Me State left Republicans with their current 23-to-11-seat advantage in the state Senate.

The Jefferson County race set a record for campaign spending, with Democrats and Republicans laying out more than $1 million combined on the battle for succession of Democratic State Sen. Steve Stoll, who resigned to become city manager of Festus, Mo. Democrats also weighed in on behalf of their candidate, former state House Minority Leader Rick Johnson, with big-name campaign assistance. A final rally on the Sunday before the balloting featured state Atty. Gen. Jay Nixon (who once held the senate seat being contested), freshman Rep. Russ Carnahan, his mother, former Sen. (2000-02) Jean Carnahan, and ’04 vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

But it was not enough to stop conservative Republican Bill Alter, a High Ridge businessman and former state representative, who topped Johnson by a slim-but-decisive 66 votes. Alter ran as a strong conservative on both economic and cultural issues, contrasting his pro-life and pro-gun rights views with Johnson’s more nuanced views on the issues.

Two other candidates, Democratic State Rep. Harold Selby and former TV sportscaster Zip Rzeppa, ran as independents in the race and placed third and fourth, respectively. In answer to charges that he was the spoiler in the race, conservative Democrat Selby told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he got into the race because Johnson was too socially liberal and, therefore, “was a weak candidate.”

In the mid-Missouri race for the seat of Republican state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Democrat Frank Barnitz scored a major upset over Republican Bill Hickle, a Rolla lawyer. Democrats claimed that Barnitz’s win was a sign of voter anger over budget cuts supported by Republican Gov. Matt Blunt and the GOP leadership in both houses of the Legislature, but state GOP spokesman John Hancock pointed out that Barnitz was a conservative who had the endorsement of the National Rifle Association and various right-to-life groups. Rural voters will support a Democrat, Hancock told reporters, “only if he talks like a Republican.”

Anne Kincaid, R.I.P.

At a time when the pro-life movement and other cultural conservatives are being recognized as political powers in the Republican Party, one of the earliest of their grassroots leaders died March 31. Anne Kincaid, a leading voice of the anti-abortion movement in Virginia for more than 20 years and a key mobilizer of cultural conservatives in the Old Dominion, succumbed at age 58 after a 19-year bout with cancer.

Born in Richmond, the former Anne Booker graduated from the Medical College of Virginia and was director of the school of radiological technology at Richmond Memorial Hospital before moving to San Francisco. A self-styled “flower child” of the 1960s who admitted having an illegal abortion in 1970, she later experienced a religious conversion, married and became a mother of three sons. The Richmond housewife became active in the pro-life movement in the early 1980s, and in 1985, she helped found the Family Foundation, one of Virginia’s leading lobbying groups on cultural issues such as abortion, marriage and school prayer. For more than 15 years, Kincaid’s trademark bouffant (“The higher the hair, the closer to heaven”) made her an easily recognized figure at the state Capitol, where she lobbied tirelessly for a state law requiring doctors to notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor. In 1997, parental consent was finally signed into law in Virginia.

Along with her lobbying, Kincaid was a crack political organizer and played a key role in mobilizing her fellow religious conservatives into the state Republican Party. Campaigns and Elections magazine profiled her as a political consultant on the rise in 1998, and the Virginia Pilot newspaper of Norfolk hailed her as “a political dynamo, dauntless in energy, creative . . . organized and articulate in defense of principle.”

Having cut her political eyeteeth in Pat Robertson’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988, Kincaid worked to elect Republican George Allen governor of Virginia in 1993 and was the top consultant in state Atty. Gen. Mark Earley’s unsuccessful race for governor in ’03. Allen tapped Kincaid to serve as his state director of constituent services from 1994-96.

Upon learning of Kincaid’s death, Allen, now Virginia’s junior senator, told reporters that she “consistently and selflessly advocated for the sanctity of life and the education of public officials on the unborn. There was no more committed advocate for the life movement than Anne Kincaid.”