Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R)
Elected: April 1998, 6th full term.
Born: Oct. 24, 1961, Cleveland, OH .
Home: Palm Springs.
Education: U. of S. CA, B.F.A. 1984.
Family: Married (Connie Mack); 4 children.
Professional Career: Gen. mgr., Bono restaurant, 1986–90.
The congresswoman from the 45th District is Mary Bono Mack, who won the seat in an April 1998 special election after the death of her husband Sonny Bono, the onetime showbiz celebrity who became a member of the U.S. House. In 2008, she married U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican, and officially changed her name from Mary Bono to Mary Bono Mack.
|Mary Bono Mack (R)||155,166||(58%)||($1,622,511)|
|Julie Bornstein (D)||111,026||(42%)||($487,826)|
|Mary Bono Mack (R)||38,726||(89%)|
|George Pearne (R)||4,618||(11%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (61%), 2004 (67%), 2002 (65%), 2000 (59%), 1998 (60%), 1998 (64%)
Bono Mack grew up as Mary Whitaker in South Pasadena, the daughter of a surgeon and a chemist. She was an accomplished gymnast and remains a fitness buff and a certified personal fitness instructor who has studied karate and Tae Kwan Do. She met Sonny Bono when she was celebrating her college graduation at his Los Angeles restaurant in 1984. They were married two years later. The couple was on a family vacation when he was killed in a skiing accident in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. At the time of his death, she had no political experience and was little known in Washington. House Republican leaders encouraged her to run for her husband’s seat, believing she was the only one who could avert a divisive Republican primary. In the special election, Democrats backed actor Ralph Waite, best known as Pa Walton in The Waltons. Waite was hurt during the brief campaign because he kept a commitment to play Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman six times a week in a New Jersey theater. The campaign’s biggest controversy came when Sonny’s 83-year-old mother said that her son would have opposed Mary’s candidacy, preferring that she care for their children. But it was no contest. Mary Bono won 64%-29%, a bigger margin than Sonny’s two victories.
Bono Mack has a moderate voting record, especially on social issues, and is the least conservative of the California Republicans. She helped pass the reauthorization of the Ryan White AIDS research law in 2006, and she supported embryonic-stem-cell research and increases in the federal minimum wage. Her initial legislative priority was passage of Sonny Bono’s bill to restore the Salton Sea, an artificial body of water in the desert created when a canal burst in 1905. In recent decades, it has been shrinking, increasing the salinity of the water, and it has been polluted by agricultural runoff. Although some Democrats objected to taking funds from other California projects, Bono Mack initially secured $13 million for what became the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. In 2007, she got another $30 million in the Water Resources Development bill for the project.
Later, she enacted a bill to establish the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument in the Palm Springs area. Bono Mack is on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and in 2007, the House passed her legislation to crack down on invasive computer “spyware,” which can hijack a computer and tamper with its operations; among other things, it can record key strokes, which allows hackers to gain access to bank accounts. Bono Mack, who collects about $100,000 annually from her late husband’s royalties, has opposed legislation to relax controls on digital piracy. During the immigration debate, she supported tougher enforcement at the border as well as an expanded guest-worker program. With Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., she passed a bill in the House in 2007 to establish a national registry of arsonists.
Bono Mack has been easily re-elected. She thought about running for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat in 2004, but declined. In 2008, she was challenged by former Assemblywoman Julie Bornstein, a Democrat who ran an ad depicting Bono Mack as a bobblehead for Bush’s policies. A Bono Mack ad alleged that when Bornstein headed an organization called Campaign for Affordable Housing, she took contributions from the federally backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and paid herself a salary of $163,000 and travel expenses of $50,000. Bornstein spent nearly $400,000 and got some attention from national Democrats. But Bono Mack won 58%-42%.