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|Michael Lynn Synar|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 2nd district
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1995
|Preceded by||Theodore Marshall Risenhoover|
|Succeeded by||Tom Coburn|
October 17, 1950|
|Died||January 9, 1996
Early life and career
Synar was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, and was graduated from Muskogee High School in 1968. He attended the University of Oklahoma (OU) and graduated in 1972 with a B.S.; later Synar also earned his law degree from OU in 1977. Synar was also a Rotary International Scholar and attended the Graduate School of Economics at the University of Edinburgh (in Scotland) in 1973, and earned an M.A. from Northwestern University in 1974.
Election and service in Congress
He was first elected to Congress in 1978 at the age of 28, by defeating incumbent Ted Risenhoover. Synar's campaign pulled off an upset victory as they circulated copies of a Washington D.C. media report that said Risenhoover slept on a "heart-shaped waterbed," which did not play well with the voters back home in Oklahoma.
In the Congress, he may be best known for his successful constitutional challenge to the Gramm-Rudman Act. In the 1986 Supreme Court decision Bowsher v. Synar, the Court struck down the law stating, in part, that the provision granting executive power to Comptroller General Charles Arthur Bowsher, a legislative branch officer, did "violate the Constitution's command that Congress play no direct role in the execution of the laws." Synar was also an ardent and persistent foe of the tobacco industry.
In 1989 Synar served as the lead prosecutor as Congress conducted an impeachment trial of then U.S. Federal Judge Alcee Hastings, who was impeached on bribery charges and removed from the bench. Ironically, Hastings was later elected to the U.S. Congress from Florida, and was in line to chair the House Select Committee on Intelligence, but was passed over by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In 1994, Synar was narrowly defeated in a Democratic primary run-off election by Virgil Cooper, a retired high school principal. Though Cooper's campaign spent less than $20,000 itself, some money was spent by outside interests that were opposed to Synar, including the National Rifle Association, tobacco companies, and cattlemen. Cooper seized on Synar's connections with Japanese businesses with a bumper sticker slogan of "Sayonara Synar."
Cooper won by just 2,609 votes out of 92,987 cast, a 51-49 margin. Cooper was subsequently defeated in the general election by Republican Tom Coburn by a 52-48 margin.
After Congress, Synar served as the Chairman of the Campaign for America Project and of the National Bankruptcy Review Commission.
He was also awarded the 1995 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, one of the nation's most prestigious honors for elected public servants.
Synar died of a brain tumor on January 9, 1996, at the age of 45. The American College of Physicians offers a national public service award in honor of Rep. Synar's public efforts against tobacco smoking. His name is also attached to the 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) Mike Synar Center at Northeastern State University in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley annually awards up to five graduate research fellowships in honor of Rep. Synar to distinguished graduate students who are writing their dissertations on an aspect of American politics.
- Oklahoma Democratic Party
- Politics of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma Congressional Districts
- United States Congressional Delegations from Oklahoma
- List of notable brain tumor patients
- Mike Synar at Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
- Mike Synar Center at Northeastern State University, Muskogee, OK
- 2000 Award to Mike Synar by Taxpayers For Common Sense
- Article on 1994 Synar primary loss
- Bowsher vs Synar (1986)
- American College of Physicians
- 1995 JFK Profile in Courage Award Recipient
- Sayonara Synar Confirmation Via New York Times
- A Civic Thrill: An open letter to Congressman Synar from writer Sarah Vowell
|United States House of Representatives|
Theodore Marshall Risenhoover
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district