Gizzi on Politics April 27, 2009

The Man Who Never Gave Up

“I’ve run 12 campaigns since 1980,” former Republican Rep. (1986-92) Clyde Holloway (R.-La.) told me last week, adding with a laugh, “It’s hard to remember how many I won and how many I lost. But believe me, none of them were easy!”  

From the nursery he owns in Alexandria, La., the 65-year-old Holloway was calling to tell me the good news: that the twelfth time was “the charm.” With his Democratic opponent suddenly dropping out of the race, stalwart conservative Holloway had won a spot on Louisiana’s five-person Public Service Commission. Most importantly, his victory gives conservatives control of a very powerful board that oversees much in the Pelican State: utilities, co-ops, natural gas, the interstate pipeline, phone companies, and water sewage.  

“My main theme was a simple one,” the triumphant Republican said. “I was not going to take money from people I would regulate.” This message of reform and clean politics, coupled with the fact that Holloway was a very familiar figure throughout the PSC district that encompasses Southwest Louisiana, convinced his Democratic opponent, and State Sen. Joe McPherson, to quit the run-off.  

Of 21-year state legislator McPherson, Holloway said: “He’s an evil Democrat, just like so many I knew in Congress.”  

The Alexandria nurseryman ran two losing U.S. House races and a losing bid for lieutenant governor before finally making it to Congress in 1986. Holloway earned a reputation as a leading social conservative during six years in Washington (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 100%) and ran for governor in 1991 — falling short in the still-discussed race that ended up with a run-off between former three-term Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards (now in jail for corruption in office) and onetime Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. (Edwards won what Holloway calls “the race from Hell.”)

When redistricting merged his district into that of fellow Republican Rep. (1986-2008) Richard Baker in 1992, Holloway was narrowly defeated. He lost a comeback bid two years later to Democratic Rep. Jimmy Hayes and went on to lose two races in the more Republican 5th District (in which his Alexandria home is located).  

The PSC was the political launching pad for Democratic Governors Huey P. Long (1927-31) and John J. McKeithen (1963-71). But, for Clyde Holloway, there is no talk of higher office, only talk of winning without compromising his principles. As he put it, “This is a sweet, sweet victory.”  

Bernie “Made-Off” With Tancredo’s Money

These days, it seems as though one cannot read a newspaper without learning about yet another victim of Wall Street confidence man Bernard Madoff.  Recently, Valerie Richardson of The Washington Times raised some eyebrows with her profile of a Madoff victim much different from most of the others who lost their fortunes: Tom Tancredo.  

That’s right. The former six-term Republican House member from Colorado, sometime HUMAN EVENTS author and ’08 presidential candidate — a man whose name is synonymous with the issue of illegal immigration — learned last year that he had lost his entire life savings of about $1 million to Bernie Madoff. Given the “wolf of Wall Street’s” record of contributing to Democratic officeholders and liberal causes (such as the pro-abortion movement), it is surprising to learn that Madoff was also handling the money of stalwart conservative Tancredo (lifetime ACU rating: 98%).

These days, Tancredo is back in Lakewood, Colo., running the Rocky Mountain Foundation conservative think tank. As the Times’ Richardson wrote, “On any given day, he does about five radio interviews along with regular television appearances on programs such as Fox News and CNN’s ‘Larry King Live.’ He writes opinion pieces. He issues press releases.” He needles Democrats. “As his party’s best-known advocate of closing borders, it goes without saying what topic Tancredo is asked about most.  

With his congressional pension and $1 million in savings, the 63-year-old Tancredo had looked forward to a comfortable retirement. Has the loss of his savings forced him to work at a frenetic pace? Not really. Admitting that he “never planned to stop working entirely” and just hoped to slow down, Tancredo told Richardson: “It just that now I have to do it with a lot more fervor.”

Specter on the Ropes

With conservative former Pennsylvania GOP Rep. (1998-2004) Pat Toomey’s recent announcement that he will challenge liberal Republican Sen. Arlen Specter for renomination next year, the insurgent who in 2004 drew 49.2% of the vote against Specter (lifetime ACU rating: 44%) is getting some unexpected boosts. Last week, in an interview with the political blog, Pennsylvania Republican Chairman Robert Gleason was asked about the now-standard claim from Specter acolytes that Toomey’s conservative record made him unelectable in the general election.  

“Of course he can be elected!” Gleason shot back, adding that views of a candidate on social issues such as abortion or gay marriage are far less important to voters than what he can do about the economy — a not -so-subtle reference to Toomey’s reputation as an anti-tax, pro-growth fiscal conservative and background as a small businessman.  

The state chairman’s remarks came on the heels of a recent declaration of support for five-termer Specter from National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), who told reporters: “My job as head of the NRSC is to guide the GOP back to a majority in the Senate. I can’t do that without Arlen Specter.”  

Days before Gleason’s remark, former Rep. (1996-2008) John Peterson said of longtime friend Specter: “If he asks for my support, I will tell him no.” In an interview with the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill, Peterson explained: “I don’t think you’d find me supporting 80-year-olds for re-election. It’s not disrespect for him [Specter is 79], but there is a time.” As to what advice he would give Specter — with whom he worked on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaigns 40 years ago — Peterson replied: “Go home and enjoy your grandchildren.”  

In “Toomey-Specter I,” then-Sen. (1994-2006) Rick Santorum and all but two of the Keystone State’s Republican House members (Rep. Joe Pitts and then-Rep. Melissa Hart) backed the incumbent. Santorum lost re-election in ’06 and, so far, no Republican House member has endorsed the embattled incumbent for 2010.  

Only two relatively obscure Democrats — former Constitution Center head Joe Torasello and State Rep. Josh Shapiro — have declared for the Senate nomination. Many prominent Democrats, among them Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Vice President Joe Biden, have urged Specter to become a Democrat.  

Under Pennsylvania’s “sore loser” law, Specter would have to become either a Democrat or independent by March of next year to run in the general election as something other than a Republican.  

Dodd Down

As more details come out about his financial shenanigans both as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and in his private transactions, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D.-Conn.) looks even more desperate as he prepares to seek a sixth term next year. A just-completed Quinnipiac Poll found that Dodd would now lose to all three possible Republican opponents. Former Rep. (2000-06) Rob Simmons, who has formally declared for the Senate, beats Dodd by 50% to 34% statewide and State Sen. and former Waterbury Mayor Sam Caligiuri, who has never been elected to office outside his hometown, defeats Dodd 41% to 37% statewide.  

Perhaps most surprisingly, a Republican prospect who has never held nor sought office led Dodd in the poll. Quinnipiac found that former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Thomas Foley holds a 43%-to-35% lead over Dodd, who has been in Congress since 1974.