A quiet but solid conservative Republican in Congress for 16 years (1982-98), Dan Schaefer died April 16 at age 70 after a long battle with esophageal cancer.
A graduate of Niagara University of New York and a U.S. Marine from 1955-57, Schaeffer settled in Colorado after his discharge and pursued careers as a high school teacher and a public relations executive. Elected to the state house of representatives in 1976 and the state senate in ’78, he compiled an across-the-board conservative record.
The Centennial State’s 6th District (suburban Denver) was created after the 1980 census and, in 1982, elected Republican Jack Swigert, the Apollo astronaut who brought a disabled capsule back to earth, as its first congressman. During the campaign, Swigert revealed that he was battling cancer. He won easily, but died before he could take office. (A statue of Swigert in his spacesuit represents Colorado in the U.S. Capitol today.) Enter Schaefer, who won the GOP nomination and subsequent special election with ease.
A fervent supporter of Ronald Reagan, Schaefer (lifetime ACU rating: 90%) became chairman of the House Commerce Committee’s energy and power subcommittee when Republicans took control of the House in 1994. In that capacity, he led the charge for deregulation of the electric power industry and opening up the industry to market competition. Schaefer’s plan for a more open and competitive electric industry included permitting every state to allow consumers to choose their power providers.
In 1998, Schaefer declared that his mission was accomplished. The free world had won the Cold War and the budget was getting into balance. Therefore, he was retiring from office and returning to Colorado. In his final political move, the retiring congressman campaigned against his state’s Proposition B, which asked taxpayers to return some of their tax surplus refunds and thus help Colorado balance its budget. Nothing doing, declared Schaefer, pointing out that taxpayers deserved to keep their refunds under the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.