Saturday October 10th, 2015 1:21AM

Ex-House Speaker Tom Foley dies at 84

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tom Foley, the courtly former speaker of the U.S. House who lost his seat when Republicans seized control of Congress in 1994, has died of complications from a stroke. He was 84.

His wife, Heather, said the former speaker had suffered the stroke last December and was hospitalized in May with pneumonia. He returned home after a week and had been on hospice care there ever since, she said.

Foley also served as U.S. ambassador to Japan for four years in the Clinton administration.

He served 30 years in the U.S. House, including more than five years as speaker.

The Democrat, who had never served a single day in the minority, was ousted by a smooth young Spokane lawyer, Republican George Nethercutt, who won by 4,000 votes in the mostly rural, heavily Republican eastern Washington district.

Foley wasn't the victim of scandal or charges of gross incompetence. Instead, his ability as speaker to bring home federal benefits was a point Nethercutt used against him, accusing him of pork-barrel politics.

The public was restless that year, and the mood was dark and angry, Foley recalled later. The electorate turned on many of the Democrats it had installed in a landslide just two years earlier, dumping six congressmen in the Democrat-favored Washington state.

He was replaced as speaker by his nemesis, Georgia Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich, who later called Washington state the "ground zero" of the sweep that gave Republicans their first control of the House in 40 years. Foley, it turned out, was their prize casualty.

In a 2004 Associated Press interview, Foley said, after Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost his seat, that the same factors hurt them both: Voters did not appreciate the value of service as party leader, and rural voters were turning against Democrats.

"We need to examine how we are responding to this division ... particularly the sense in some rural areas that the Democratic Party is not a party that respects faith or family or has respect for values. I think that's wrong, but it's a dangerous perception if it develops as it has," he told the AP.

Republicans kept Foley's old seat, even in 2006 when the national tide swung back and Democrats retook a majority in the House, and in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president. As a party "superdelegate," Foley had remained uncommitted during Obama's presidential primary battle with Hillary Clinton but eventually endorsed Obama in June 2008.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Foley "a quintessential champion of the common good" who "inspired a sense of purpose and civility that reflects the best of our democracy."

She added, "Speaker Foley's unrivaled ability to build consensus and find common ground earned him genuine respect on both sides of the aisle."

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Foley.

"Forthright and warmhearted, Tom Foley endeared himself not only to the wheat farmers back home but also colleagues on both sides of the aisle," Boehner said. "That had a lot to do with his solid sense of fairness, which remains a model for any speaker or representative."

Foley loved the classics and art, hobnobbing with presidents, and the steady rise to power in Congress and diplomacy. But he also loved riding horseback in parades and getting his boots dirty in the rolling hills of the Palouse country that his pioneer forebears helped settle.

The Democratic giant studied at the feet of the state's two legendary senators, Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson. "Scoop" Jackson was his mentor and urged his former aide to run for the House in 1964, which turned out to be the Johnson landslide year for the Democrats.

Foley worked with leadership to get plum committee assignments and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Retirement, new seniority rules, election losses and leadership battles lifted Foley into the Agriculture Committee chairmanship by age 44. At the time, he was the youngest chairman in a century. He eventually left that post, which he later called his favorite leadership position, to become Democratic whip, the caucus' third ranking post.

Similar good fortune elevated him to majority leader, and the downfall of Jim Wright of Texas lifted him to the speaker's chair, where he served from June 1989 until 1995.

"I wish I could say it was merit and hard work, but I think so much of what happens in a political career is the result of circumstances that are favorable and opportunities that come about," Foley told the AP in 2003.

He said his proudest achievements were farm bills, hunger programs, civil liberties, environmental legislation and civil rights bills. Helping individual constituents also was satisfying, he said. Even though his views were often considerably to the left of his mostly Republican constituents, he said he tried to stay in touch.

Dan Evans, a Republican former governor and senator, was among Foley's many fans. "He was an unusually civil politician in an increasingly uncivil arena," Evans once said.

After leaving Congress, Foley could have retired on his $124,000 pension and his investment wealth, but he went on to have two more careers - diplomacy and the law.

He joined a blue chip law firm in Washington, D.C., by one account earning $400,000, plus fees he earned serving on corporate boards. Foley and his wife, his unpaid political adviser and staff aide, had built their dream home in the capital in 1992.

In 1997, he took a pay cut to take one of the most prestigious assignments in diplomacy, ambassador to Japan. A longtime Japan scholar, Foley had been a frequent visitor to that nation, in part to promote the farm products his district produces.

"Diplomacy is not, frankly, very different" from the deal-making, consensus and common courtesy that a successful politician needs, he said.

In "Honor in the House," the biography he co-wrote with his longtime press secretary, Jeff Biggs, Foley recounted with affection his deep roots in the district, going back to pioneer stock on both sides of the family.

His father, Ralph, was a beloved judge for decades and a school classmate of Bing Crosby's. Ralph Foley's father, Cornelius, brought the family to Spokane in 1907 with the Great Northern Railroad. Tom Foley's maternal grandparents homesteaded in Lincoln County. His mother, Helen, was a teacher.

Foley attended Gonzaga Preparatory School and Gonzaga University in Spokane, working summers as a camp counselor, pharmacy delivery boy, highway crewman and aluminum company laborer. He graduated from the University of Washington Law School and worked as a prosecutor, assistant state attorney general, and as counsel for Jackson's Senate Interior Committee for three years.

Then came the long House career.

Foley told the AP he instinctively knew in 1994 that his days were finally numbered. He said he thought about retiring that year, but talked himself into running one last time after the Senate leader retired.

For Foley, there was a deja vu quality about that election. Like Nethercutt, Foley had been a young Spokane attorney in 1964 when he ousted a longtime incumbent, the affable Republican Walt Horan, after 22 years in Congress.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 2 weeks ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 2 weeks ago )