John A. Durkin

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John A. Durkin
John A. Durkin.jpg
United States Senator
from New Hampshire
In office
September 18, 1975 – December 29, 1980
Preceded by Norris Cotton
Succeeded by Warren Rudman
Personal details
Born John Anthony Durkin
(1936-03-29)March 29, 1936
Brookfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 16, 2012(2012-10-16) (aged 76)
Franklin, New Hampshire, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross
Georgetown University

John Anthony Durkin (March 29, 1936 – October 16, 2012) was a Democratic U.S. Senator from New Hampshire from 1975 until 1980.

Durkin graduated from St. John's High School in 1954. Durkin graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1959 and Georgetown University Law Center in 1965. He was assistant attorney general of New Hampshire from 1966 to 1968 and the state insurance commissioner from 1968 to 1973.

1974 Senate election[edit]

In 1974, Durkin won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat vacated by 20-year Republican incumbent Norris Cotton. He lost to Republican Congressman Louis Wyman by 355 votes in the November 5 election.

However, he demanded a recount, which resulted in his victory by 10 votes. Governor Meldrim Thomson then certified Durkin as the winner. However, Wyman demanded another recount, in which he prevailed by only two votes. Cotton resigned on December 31, 1974; Thomson appointed Wyman to the seat for the balance of the term ending January 3, 1975 to give him a leg up in seniority. This appeared to end the dispute, but Durkin appealed to the full Senate, which is the final arbiter of Senate elections per the Constitution.[1]

The Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections, deadlocked on whether to seat Wyman for the 1975-1981 term pending the resolution of the dispute. On January 14, the Senate returned the matter to the Rules Committee, which returned 35 disputed points to the full Senate based on 3,000 questionable ballots. However, the Senate was unable to break a deadlock on even one of the 35 points.

After seven months of wrangling, which included six unsuccessful Democratic attempts to seat Durkin, Wyman proposed that he and Durkin run again in a special election. Durkin agreed, and the Senate declared the seat vacant on August 8, 1975, pending the new election. Thomson appointed Cotton to his old seat in the meantime. The special election was held on September 16, and Durkin won handily, defeating Wyman by over 27,000 votes – ending what remains the longest vacancy following the most closely contested direct Senate election in history.

For the first four years of his term, Durkin served alongside fellow Democrat Thomas J. McIntyre. New Hampshire hadn't been represented by two Democratic Senators since prior to the Civil War.

As a member of the senate Veteran's Affairs Committee, Durkin authored an amendment to the 1976 Veterans Affairs Authorization, which extended GI Bill benefits to the veterans of the recently concluded Vietnam War.

1980 Senate election[edit]

He was defeated for re-election in 1980 by Warren Rudman and resigned six days before the end of his term, thereby giving his long-time opponent seniority in the U.S. Senate's entering class of 1980. He sought the state's other Senate seat in 1990, but was defeated handily by Republican Congressman Bob Smith.

1990 Senate election[edit]

In 1990, while complaining that his opponent was receiving funding from Japanese auto dealers, he referred to them as "Japs," an ethnic slur.[2]


Durkin died on October 16, 2012 at Franklin Regional Hospital in Franklin, New Hampshire following a brief illness. He is survived by his three children: John, Andrea and Sheilagh and their spouses and children.[3] He was 76.

Warren Rudman, Durkin's opponent when Durkin sought re-election in 1980, died on Monday, November 19, 2012, about five weeks after Durkin's death.


External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
John King
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New Hampshire
(Class 3)

1974, 1975, 1980
Succeeded by
Endicott Peabody
Preceded by
Norman D'Amours
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New Hampshire
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
Richard Swett
United States Senate
Preceded by
Norris Cotton
United States Senator (Class 3) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: Thomas McIntyre, Gordon Humphrey
Succeeded by
Warren Rudman