Sen. John F. Kerry (D)|
Last Updated June 13, 2001
seat up 2002
Born: Dec. 11, 1943,
Education: Yale U., A.B. 1966, Boston Col., LL.B. 1976
Marital Status: married
- Political: MA Lt. Gov., 1982-84.
- Professional: Organizer, Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Asst. Dist. Atty., Middlesex Cnty., 1976-81; Practicing atty., 1981-82.
- Military: Navy, 1966-70 (Vietnam), Naval Reserves, 1972-78.
DC Office: 304 RSOB
202-224-2742; Fax: 202-224-8525; Web site: www.senate.gov/~kerry
617-565-8519; Fall River,508-677-0522; Springfield,413-785-4610; Worcester,508-831-7380.
- Democratic Steering Committee Chairman.
- Commerce, Science & Transportation: Communications; Oceans, Atmosphere & Fisheries (Chmn.); Science, Technology & Space; Surface Transportation & Merchant Marine.
- Finance: Health Care; International Trade; Social Security & Family Policy.
- Foreign Relations: East Asian & Pacific Affairs (Chmn.); European Affairs; International Operations & Terrorism; Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics Affairs.
- Small Business (Chmn.).
John Kerry has been a national political figure since he was one of the organizers of Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971. He attracted attention then because of his background, unusual for a Vietnam veteran (he went to Yale, and his mother is from the Brahmin Forbes family) and because of his record of genuine heroism in combat. ''How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?'' he asked in congressional testimony--a good question, and one which also suggested his future political ambitions. Yet his political career did not proceed straight ahead. He ran for Congress in 1972, after some widely observed district-shopping, and lost in a district carried by George McGovern. Chastened, Kerry went to law school, worked for a prosecutor, was elected lieutenant governor on the Dukakis ticket in 1982, and ran for senator in 1984; in both races, he upset a favored rival for the Democratic nomination. In 1982, Kerry won the general as part of a tied ticket with Dukakis; in the 1984 general, he beat Raymond Shamie, a businessman and state Republican chairman, 55%-45%.
Kerry came to the Senate with a reputation as a strong liberal. He has a similar voting record to fellow Senator Edward Kennedy, but there have been differences of nuance and interest: Kerry has been more respectful of economic free markets and moved earlier than Kennedy toward supporting an expansive U.S. foreign and military policy. In the majority, Kerry made a name as an investigator, spending some time up blind alleys with klieg lights but also producing some important information. He used his Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, Narcotics and Terrorism Subcommittee chairmanship to investigate the infamous Bank of Credit & Commerce International scandal. He also brought forward evidence that Manuel Noriega of Panama was involved with drug-dealing.
Kerry's other great investigation was as chairman of the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, on whether Americans were left behind in Vietnamese hands in 1973. Kerry and Republican Bob Smith of New Hampshire went to Vietnam and attempted to turn up new evidence. He concluded that there is evidence ''that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number,'' after 1973, but also said, ''There is at this time no compelling evidence that any American remains alive in captivity in southeast Asia.'' By May 1995, Kerry and fellow Vietnam veteran Senator John McCain were convinced that Hanoi was fully cooperating and, aware they had standing on this issue that Bill Clinton conspicuously lacked, they got him to normalize relations with Vietnam. Kerry has traveled a number of times to Vietnam, and he and McCain pushed successfully for the appointment of the first U.S. ambassador there. Kerry has also worked to extend Fulbright scholarships to Vietnam. He was the lead negotiator with the State Department and the United Nations to create an international tribunal to hold hearings on genocide and war crimes in Cambodia.
Kerry has remained close with McCain and other Vietnam veterans in the Senate. Like McCain, he spoke out strongly in favor of the bombing of Bosnia in April 1999. "One of the lessons of Vietnam is: If you are going to send American forces into harm's way, you don't do it in a limited way. You don't do it tying your hands behind your back ahead of time. You don't ask people to give their lives for something less than the prospect of success." He has also spoken out against the constitutional amendment to allow punishment for flag desecration, arguing that only countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea have such laws. "Is this what our soldiers fought and died for … so that we could join this list of dictatorial, authoritarian and discredited regimes?"
Kerry has taken some interesting positions on several issues. In June 1998 he decried the ''implosion'' of public education and said it was caused not just by overcrowded classrooms but also by the ''stifling bureaucracy'' of school systems. His list of reforms, co-sponsored with Republican Gordon Smith, included some strongly opposed by the teachers' unions--important backers of the Democratic Party--ending teacher tenure, changing certification requirements to end the education school monopoly and allow lateral entry into teaching. He has worked with Republican Christopher Bond to allow direct grants to charities, including faith-based organizations, for early childhood education of at-risk children. With McCain and Spencer Abraham, he sponsored a bill to require websites to disclose their privacy policies, and with Sam Brownback and Tim Hutchinson a bill to get employers to accommodate workers' religious practices absent "undue hardship." He opposed unions and supported expansion of H1-B visas. He urged the Clinton Administration to lift export barriers on encryption and high performance computers. He favored Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and led the floor fight against the Thompson-Torricelli amendment which would have required review of China's human rights practices. He sponsored a bill to commit $100 million yearly to a fund to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.
Kerry has long called for campaign finance reform and has refused to take PAC contributions. In May 1995 he married Teresa Heinz, widow of Republican Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, who inherited his fortune of more than $600 million; Roll Call in 1999 rated Kerry the richest member of Congress, with $675 million, but he has said he would not spend it on his campaigns. ''It's my wife's money, not mine.'' Indeed, she maintains her residence in Pennsylvania, where her foundations are based, and where, as some critics cavil, income tax rates are lower than in Massachusetts; when Kerry took out a $1.9 million loan for his 1996 race, it was against his own personal assets.
That year Kerry faced a major challenge from Governor William Weld, who had been re-elected two years before with 71% of the vote. Earlier, the two had worked together on some state problems and emphasized the similarity of their views--both pro-choice on abortion, even against the partial-birth abortion ban; both for gay rights; both supported the deployment of U.S. troops in Bosnia. But the campaign inevitably produced disagreements and some gentlemanly acrimony. Weld called Kerry a ''tax-and-spend liberal who is soft on crime.'' Kerry charged that Weld would vote for budget cuts that would hurt Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment. They held seven debates altogether, literate rounds of accusations and one-liners. They both spent liberally--Kerry, $12.6 million, the second highest of any Senate candidate for 1996; Weld, $8 million. Most polls showed Kerry ahead, some showed Weld leading, but most were within the margin of error, with both candidates usually between 40% and 45%. In the last debate, Kerry framed the issues his way by asking Weld what programs he would cut; Weld declined to answer.
In the end Kerry won 52%-45%: just as heavily Republican states like Wyoming and Nebraska were refusing to elect popular Democratic governors to the Senate, so heavily Democratic Massachusetts did not want to elect a Republican. The electorate was not split along historic lines: Catholics voted only 56%-40% for Kerry, Protestants by only 53%-42% for Weld, numbers a world away from what exit polls would have shown when John Kennedy beat Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. in 1952. The real split was along cultural lines. Jews and those voters with no religion voted about 75% for Kerry; and there was no significant bloc of conservative Protestants to balance them off. Kerry's biggest margins among education groups was among those with graduate degrees, who gave him a 62%-35% margin: teachers, social workers, lawyers, doctors and other credentialed professionals. Kerry got his biggest percentages in Boston and university towns like Cambridge and Amherst, and he carried--but not by large margins--old mill towns like Lowell and Lawrence.
Kerry has obviously long had ambitions for national office, but he lacks the warm personal demeanor of a Bill Clinton. Even his supporters on the Boston Globe editorial page once wrote, "His coolness can approach frost with great rapidity, and his fellow pols do not cut him the sort of slack allotted to more demonstrative personalities." He does not have an obvious common touch. But he is able and hard-working and has shown some originality on public policy, and could surely be a plausible presidential candidate. After his 1996 victory, he could be pretty sure of holding his Senate seat, and he started making trips to New Hampshire. But after opposing impeachment--like most northeast Democrats, thought it was frivolous to remove Clinton from office for his offenses--he announced in February 1999 that he would not run for the 2000 nomination. Eighteen months later he was apparently one of the two finalists for the Democratic vice presidential nomination and was obviously disappointed when Al Gore chose Joseph Lieberman. His Senate seat comes up in 2002, and seems to be in no jeopardy, and this war hero and experienced politician could very well be a serious candidate for president in 2004.
Safe. Massachusetts Republicans will be extraordinarily lucky just to hold onto the governorship in 2002, let alone make the Senate race competitive. As of spring 2001, the only name being floated as a potential challenger to Kerry was scandal-plagued businessman and 2000 Senate nominee Jack E. Robinson, but Republicans are not likely to embrace his candidacy. Kerry will probably have the luxury of using the campaign season to position himself for a 2004 White House bid.
|National Journal Ratings|
Key Votes of the 106th Congress
|1. Educ. Savings Accts.
|2. Prescrip. Drug Benefit
|3. Delay Ergonomic Standards
|4. Phase Out Estate Tax
|5. Review Movie Violence
|6. Gun Show Bckgrnd. Checks
| 7. Ban Part.-Birth Abortion||N|
| 8. Broaden Hate Crimes List
| 9. NATO War in Serbia
|10. Table Cuba Travel Ban
|11. Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
|12. Perm. Trade with China
||John F. Kerry (D)
|William Weld (R)
||John F. Kerry (D)
||John F. Kerry (D)
|Jim Rappaport (R)
|1996||Receipts||Receipts from PACs||Expenditures|
|John F. Kerry (D)
|William Weld (R)
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