Mike Synar

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Michael Lynn Synar
Synar1.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Ted Risenhoover
Succeeded by Tom Coburn
Personal details
Born (1950-10-17)October 17, 1950
Vinita, Oklahoma
Died January 9, 1996(1996-01-09) (aged 45)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Profession Lawyer

Michael Lynn "Mike" Synar (October 17, 1950 – January 9, 1996) was an American Democratic politician who represented Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district in Congress for eight terms.

Early life and career[edit]

Synar was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, Father Ed Synar WWII B24 Tail Gunner in Europe, father line from Poland and Catholic, 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.

While Synar's primary profession was the practice of law, he also worked as a rancher and a real estate broker/agent in the Muskogee area.

Election and service in Congress[edit]

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[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ted Risenhoover
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district

1979–1995
Succeeded by
Tom Coburn