I was extremely saddened to hear the news that former Idaho congressman (the way she preferred to be addressed) Helen Chenoweth had recently been killed in an automobile accident. She was 68. With her passing, America lost a great statesman and patriot.
Helen was part of that great freshman class of 1995 when conservative Republicans took over the House of Representatives. It was a short run, but the ’95 freshmen such as Chenoweth, Joe Scarborough, Steve Largent, Bob Barr, and others for a moment, at least, seriously shook the timbers of an entrenched Washington establishment. However, thanks to insiders such as Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott, establishment politicians quickly recovered, and there really has not been a conservative class in Congress since. However, Chenoweth and her tribe deserve credit for a valiant effort.
Now, Helen Chenoweth becomes the second ’95 class member to die an untimely death. As we know, Sonny Bono was killed in a skiing accident a few years ago.
I was never privileged to personally meet Helen, but we did correspond via email. She was a regular reader of my columns and would sometimes write to express her appreciation for what I had written. To me, Helen Chenoweth was a champion, and I felt honored just to know that she would take time to read my columns.
Helen and I were not of the same faith, but we were of the same spirit. We shared a deep affection for America’s founding principles. This was an affection that Helen never lost.
Helen Chenoweth was a constitutionalist. As a member of the House of Representatives, she took her oath to the Constitution seriously. Obviously, this put her at odds with many in Washington, D.C., including many within her own party.
However, to Helen Chenoweth, the only thing that mattered was her duty to the Constitution and to the American people. She was as tough as she was tender. Her commitment and fidelity to constitutional government were unshakeable. As with so many in that great freshman class of ’95, she was as out of place in Washington, D.C., as the proverbial fish out of water.
Have you noticed that most of the ’95 freshman class did not stay in Washington very long? In Helen’s case, she term-limited herself and did not run for Congress after serving three terms in the House. But to those of us who labored, even in a small way, to help elect that great freshman class of 1995, the efforts of Helen Chenoweth and her compatriots will never be forgotten.
I’m confident that Helen’s family could fill volumes with accolades and praises for her many personal and private virtues that only those close to her were honored to share. However, those of us who only knew her from afar, but who shared her commitment to constitutional government, will long remember and cherish the memory of a truly great American, the dear and wonderful Helen Chenoweth.