Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.

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Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
Lweicker.jpg
85th Governor of Connecticut
In office
January 9, 1991 – January 4, 1995
Lieutenant Eunice Groark
Preceded by William A. O'Neill
Succeeded by John G. Rowland
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1989
Preceded by Thomas J. Dodd
Succeeded by Joseph I. Lieberman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1971
Preceded by Donald J. Irwin
Succeeded by Stewart McKinney
Personal details
Born Lowell Palmer Weicker, Jr.
(1931-05-16) May 16, 1931 (age 83)
Paris, France
Political party Republican (to 1990)
A Connecticut Party (1990–95)
Independent (since 1995)
Spouse(s) Claudia Weicker
Alma mater Yale University
University of Virginia Law School
Profession Politician
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1953-1955
Battles/wars Korean War

Lowell Palmer Weicker, Jr. (born May 16, 1931) is an American politician who served as a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the 85th Governor of Connecticut, and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980.[1] Though a member of the Republican Party during his time in Congress, he later left the Republican Party and became one of the few independents to be elected as a state governor in the United States in recent years. Weicker was also a member of the Board of Directors of WWE for 15 years prior to stepping down in 2011.[2]

Early life[edit]

Weicker was born in Paris, the son of American parents Mary Hastings (née Bickford) and Lowell Palmer Weicker.[3] His grandfather, Theodore Weicker, co-founded the E. R. Squibb corporation.[4] Weicker graduated from the Lawrenceville School (class of 1949), Yale University (1953), and the University of Virginia School of Law (1958).[5] He began his political career after serving in the United States Army (1953–55) after the Korean War.

Career in Congress[edit]

Weicker served in the Connecticut State House of Representatives from 1962 to 1966 and as First Selectman of Greenwich, Connecticut before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1968 as a Republican. Weicker only served one term in the House before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970; he served in the U.S. Senate for three terms, from 1971 to 1989, before being defeated for a fourth term by Joe Lieberman. During his time in the Senate, Weicker had one of the worst attendance records in the chamber. He gained national attention for his service on the Senate Watergate Committee. Weicker was a liberal voice in an increasingly conservative Republican Party. "In its 1986 rankings, the venerable Americans for Democratic Action rated Weicker the most liberal Republican in the Senate, by far—and 20 percentage points more liberal than his fellow Connecticut senator, a Democrat named Chris Dodd."[6]

Weicker's tense relations with establishment Republicans may have roots in receiving strong support from President Nixon in his 1970 Senate bid, support repaid in the eyes of his critics by a vehement attack on the White House while serving on the Watergate Committee. Later, his relations with the Bush family soured, and the brother of then Vice President Bush (Prescott Bush, Jr.) made a short-lived bid against Weicker to gain the 1982 Republican Senate nomination. Finally, conservative animus spilled into overt support for Joe Lieberman in 1988, both from national sources such as National Review (publisher William F. Buckley, Jr., and his brother, former New York Senator James Buckley, both endorsed and campaigned for Lieberman in 1988), but more importantly, from rank-and-file Connecticut Republicans irate with Weicker's effort to make the local party more liberal and prevent the nomination of conservatives to state office, and the poor showing of Weicker-backed candidates in the 1986 elections. Weicker was defeated in the 1988 election by less than 1 percent of the vote, owing in large part to defections by Republicans to Lieberman.[citation needed]

Governor[edit]

Weicker's political career appeared to be over after his 1988 defeat for reelection to the Senate by Lieberman, and he became a professor at the George Washington University Law School. However, two years later, he ran for Governor of Connecticut as a member of "A Connecticut Party" against Republican John G. Rowland and Democrat Bruce Morrison. The most volatile issue facing Connecticut at that time was the attempt to implement a broad-based state income tax. Connecticut traditionally had no state income tax except for a fairly steep one imposed on "unearned income" such as interest and dividends.[citation needed] Weicker ran on a platform of solving Connecticut's fiscal crisis without the implementation of the broad-based income tax to include the taxation of earned income. Weicker won 40 percent of the vote on election day with Rowland taking 37 percent. Weicker lost Fairfield and New Haven counties to Rowland, but drew especially strong support from the Hartford metro area, where he had been strongly endorsed by the Hartford Courant and by many state employee labor unions. Weicker gained national attention through his upset victory.

However, shortly after his inauguration, Weicker reversed his position and became an advocate of the tax that he had campaigned against. Liberal forces applauded his political courage and his willingness to face reality, in their view, while conservative forces were equally quick to denounce him in no uncertain terms as a liar.[citation needed] The broad income tax he had come to favor passed the General Assembly. However, shortly after it was implemented and the withholding for it began, a huge protest rally in Hartford attracted some 40,000 participants, some of whom cursed at and spit at Governor Weicker. After this, the Assembly passed a measure repealing the broad-based income tax, which was subsequently vetoed by Governor Weicker. The override of the veto fell a vote short, and the massively unpopular tax was kept in effect.

Weicker's critics are quick to blame his implementation of the state income tax for Connecticut's loss of one congressional district as a result of the 2000 census (based on the theory that the tax increased the rate of people leaving the state). It certainly resulted in an exodus of insurance companies[citation needed] which had previously called Hartford, Connecticut their home (in the then-popular board game Trivial Pursuit, Hartford was the answer to one question: 'What is the insurance capitol of the world?'). This position was held by the conservative Yankee Institute, which claimed in August 2006 that after fifteen years the income tax had failed to achieve its stated goals.[7] However, Weicker's supporters insist that he was the only person who could have solved the state's ongoing fiscal problems and had the courage to address them directly and forthrightly. They also note that the enactment of the income tax was coupled with a reduction of the state's sales tax to a level comparable to that of surrounding states, benefitting Connecticut merchants.

Another criticism of Weicker's support for the state income tax, one rarely reported in the media, is that the new tax law benefited his wealthy supporters in Fairfield County. The new law reduced the state sales tax by two percentage points (from 8% to 6%) and increased the tax on earned income by four percentage points (from 0% to 4%), which resulted in a net tax increase for most Connecticut residents. However, two groups of residents enjoyed significant reductions in their tax bills. One was Connecticut residents who worked in another state and paid income tax to that state (mostly residents of Weicker's home county, Fairfield County, who worked in New York City). These individuals could subtract taxes paid to the other state from their Connecticut tax bill, usually resulting in no Connecticut tax on their earned income. The second favored group consisted of wealthy individuals with substantial investment income. The new tax law eliminated Connecticut's capital gains tax and dividend and interest income tax, which had taxed investment income at rates of 10% to 12%. Because investment income (like earned income) was taxed at only 4% under the new tax law, individuals with large amounts of investment income enjoyed a significant reduction in the amount of tax paid to Connecticut.[8]

Weicker did not seek re-election as governor in 1994. In 2000, he endorsed Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) for President. In 2004, Weicker supported former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's (D-VT) presidential bid.

In his book Independent Nation (2004), political analyst John Avlon describes Weicker as a radical centrist governor and thinker.[9]

2006 candidacy for U.S. Senator from Connecticut[edit]

Lowell Weicker was said to be considering a rematch against Senator Joe Lieberman in the 2006 election cycle. He objected to Lieberman's support for the Iraq War and noted in a New York Times article published on December 6, 2005, "If he's out there scot-free and nobody will do it [run against Senator Lieberman], I'd have to give serious thought to doing it myself, and I don't want to do it."[citation needed]

The Lieberman campaign released an ad that borrowed from one aired during the 1988 Senate race, which depicted Weicker as a hibernating bear ignoring his Senate duties except at election time. In the 2006 ad, Weicker reappeared as a wounded bear while Lieberman's Democratic challenger, Ned Lamont, was depicted as a bear cub sent and directed by Weicker. On June 18, 2006, Weicker held a fundraiser for Lamont and described himself as an "anti-war activist." (Lamont won the primary, but Lieberman, running as an independent with heavy Republican support, maintained his seat in the general election.)[citation needed]

Other activities[edit]

In 1996, Weicker joined the Board of Directors for Compuware[10] and still holds this position. In 1999, Weicker became a member of the Board of Directors for World Wrestling Entertainment (now known as simply WWE), and held this position until 2011.

Weicker served from 2001–2011 as President of the Board of Directors of Trust for America's Health, a Washington, DC-based non-profit, non-partisan health policy research organization, and formerly a member of the Board of Directors of United States Tobacco. Since 2003, Weicker has served on the board of Medallion Financial Corp., a lender to purchasers of taxi medallions in leading cities across the U.S. He was named to the board through his personal and business relationship with Andrew M. Murstein, president of Medallion.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Weicker Opens Presidential Campaign, March 13, 1979
  2. ^ "The breakup: Weicker to leave the board of WWE", GreenwichTime.com, April 18, 2011
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Ravo, Nick (August 27, 1990). "Weicker Honeymoon Over as Governor's Race Heats Up". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ Lowell Palmer Weicker, Jr., Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed December 16, 2007.
  6. ^ Kornacki, Steve (2011-01-19) The making (and unmaking) of Joe Lieberman, [[Salon (website)|]]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Avlon, John (2004). Independent Nation: How the Vital Center Is Changing American Politics. Harmony Books / Random House, pp. 177-93 ("Radical Centrists"). ISBN 978-1-4000-5023-9.
  10. ^ [4]
  11. ^ Medallion Financial Corp. annual report, 2010, p. 78

Further reading[edit]

  • Barone, Michael, et al. The Almanac of American Politics 1976: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts (1975); new editions every 2 years through the 1996 editions cover his political career
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Donald J. Irwin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 4th congressional district

1969–1971
Succeeded by
Stewart McKinney
United States Senate
Preceded by
Thomas J. Dodd
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Connecticut
1971–1989
Served alongside: Abraham A. Ribicoff, Christopher Dodd
Succeeded by
Joe Lieberman
Political offices
Preceded by
Gaylord Nelson
Wisconsin
Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee
1981–1987
Succeeded by
Dale Bumpers
Arkansas
Preceded by
William A. O'Neill
Governor of Connecticut
1991–1995
Succeeded by
John G. Rowland
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Davis Lodge
Republican nominee for United States Senator from Connecticut
(Class 1)

1970, 1976, 1982, 1988
Succeeded by
Jerry Labriola