By Congressional Quarterly
Boswell, who at 62 is one of the older members of the Class of 1996, arrives in Congress not only with 12 years of experience in the Iowa Senate -- he left as state Senate president -- but also with two other lengthy careers under his belt. A working farmer, Boswell is a retired career military man.
Boswell's seasoning probably contributed to his selection as one of three freshmen selected for the Democratic Steering Committee, a leadership arm that plays a key role in determining members' committee assignments.
In addition, Boswell has a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He sought the post in order to play a role on commerce-related issues affecting Iowa, such as the movement of agricultural commodities and other products.
Among Boswell's top goals is balancing the budget while sparing education, public safety and senior citizens' programs from spending cuts. He stresses his experience in working toward eliminating Iowa's budget deficit while in the state Senate.
Boswell's campaign against Republican Mike Mahaffey, the Powesheik County attorney and a former state party chairman, was notable for its niceness. Both candidates pledged to avoid negative attacks on each other, and, for the most part, succeeded. The task was made easier by the fact that both men are political centrists.
While the two agreed on many issues, they did have their differences -- most notably over how to reach a balanced budget. Boswell stressed the need to protect senior citizens' programs, but Mahaffey said it was necessary to take a serious look at such programs as Medicare and Social Security to ensure that the entire system does not break down in the future.Boswell spent much of the campaign criticizing the GOP congressional agenda. Unusual for a Democrat, he won the endorsement of the Iowa Farm Bureau.
In the end, Boswell eked out a thin margin of victory over Mahaffey, moving one House seat from Iowa into the Democratic column.
The 3rd is a rural, agricultural district that sprawls over Iowa's southern tier from the Mississippi nearly to the Nebraska border, then hooks northward to include suburban areas near Des Moines, including the university city of Ames. It had been represented by six-term Republican Jim Ross Lightfoot. Although Lightfoot had endured some close contests before, he was favored to win re-election in 1996.
But in late February, just weeks before the state's congressional filing deadline, Lightfoot announced what turned out to be an unsuccessful challenge to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
Lightfoot's decision prompted Mahaffey to seek the GOP nomination, and he eventually won his primary over two lesser-known opponents.
Two Democrats, state Executive Deputy Attorney General Charlie Krogmeier and Lee County Supervisor Tracy Vance, had already been vying for the right to challenge Lightfoot.
But supporters encouraged Boswell, who had gained name recognition through his state Senate position and from an unsuccessful 1994 bid for lieutenant governor, to enter the race. Vance subsequently dropped out and backed Boswell. After a primary battle, Boswell defeated Krogmeier.
Throughout his campaign, Boswell often flew his own plane to appearances around the vast district. A 20-year Army veteran who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Boswell served as a pilot in Vietnam.
After leaving the Army, Boswell returned to Iowa to farm. But community members encouraged him to become active in politics. His first post was on the local elevator board. Supporters then urged him to run for the state Senate, to which he was elected in 1984.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
Illinois - Senate
Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Born: Nov. 21, 1944, East St. Louis, Ill.
Education: Georgetown U., B.S.F.S1966, J.D. 1969.
Occupation: Lawyer; congressional and legislative aide.
Family: Wife, Loretta Schaefer; three children.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Political Career: Democratic nominee for Ill. Senate, 1976; Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, 1978; U.S. House, 1983-97.
By Congressional Quarterly
In moving to the Senate from the House, Durbin has a new and larger podium from which to deliver his anti-smoking bromides. During his seven terms in the House, his relentless campaign against the tobacco industry set him apart from many of his colleagues.
Durbin, who was 14 when his chain-smoking father died of lung cancer, led the successful effort in the late 1980s to ban smoking on most domestic airline flights.
Later, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs, FDA and Related Agencies, he repeatedly tried to scale back government support for tobacco farmers, falling just two votes short on an anti-tobacco floor vote in 1996.
Despite the considerable clout of the tobacco industry, Durbin's impassioned oratory and appropriations savvy have left tobacco supporters on the ropes. But rural Southern lawmakers accuse him of misstating government spending for tobacco farmers.
Smoking aside, Durbin's legislative skills -- he was once the Illinois Senate parliamentarian -- and unabashed support for anti- poverty programs may give Senate liberals a boost.
During his House tenure, the often-partisan Durbin battled to increase funding for health and nutrition programs.
He waged a successful effort to funnel more money into the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program during a round of budget cuts in 1994. Continuing to exert power even after the Republicans won control of the House in 1994, Durbin helped shield the WIC program from budget cuts during the 104th Congress. He also played a significant role in a 1995 battle to allow the Agriculture Department to move toward more-scientific meat inspections.
He has drawn criticism from some farm-state lawmakers and Republican conservatives for shifting agriculture spending priorities away from farm programs and toward accounts such as food stamps and the Food and Drug Administration.
Durbin is willing to take a budget ax to other parts of the federal budget. He opposes the $30 billion space station program, for example, and in 1992 led an unsuccessful assault against the anti-missile Strategic Defense Initiative.
But the lawmaker is not willing to enshrine a balanced-budget requirement in the Constitution. While his predecessor, fellow Democrat Paul Simon, was a leading proponent of a balanced-budget amendment, Durbin voted against the proposal in 1995.
In yet another example of his sometimes acerbic debating style, he mocked some deficit hawks in the 103rd Congress by listing the 1,113 funding requests his Appropriations subcommittee had received from self-styled fiscal conservatives.
In addition to agriculture, Durbin has weighed in on foreign policy and defense debates, including opposing going to war against Iraq in 1991.
Despite his sure footing on other issues, Durbin has struggled over the matter of abortion rights. Although he opposed abortion rights in his early days in the House, he began backing federal abortion funding for poor women under certain circumstances, such as rape or incest.
In the 105th Congress, Durbin will weigh forth from seats on the Governmental Affairs and Judiciary committees.
Though he had a liberal voting record in Congress, he cultivated a moderate image, which helped him regularly win re-election in a swing district.
When Simon announced his retirement, Durbin eagerly gave up his House seat for the chance to succeed him. He had little trouble winning the Democratic primary.
His chances of victory were enhanced when Republicans shunned Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra, the favorite of the party establishment, and instead nominated state Rep. Al Salvi, a little-known conservative who opposed abortion rights and supported gun owners' rights. Salvi's primary victory was an upset in a state where statewide Republicans tend to be moderate on social issues, including abortion rights supporters Kustra and Gov. Jim Edgar.
Political observers installed Durbin as a solid favorite to win the seat, but Salvi battled back from a huge early deficit in the polls on the strength of his performance as a campaigner. Traveling the state with his wife and five children, including a newborn infant, he projected the image of a family man.
Salvi also reaped some coverage during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago when he joined New York Republican Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to visit an Italian bakery known as D'Amato's.
Durbin spent the campaign trying to portray Salvi as an extremist, attacking him for opposing the 1994 assault weapons ban and for accepting large campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.
But Salvi tried to deflect charges that he was an ideologue by painting Durbin as a typical tax-and-spend liberal. Emphasizing his own fiscal conservatism, Salvi criticized Durbin for his votes in the House to raise taxes.
Durbin also came under fire for congressional pay raises, his congressional pension and his overdrafts at the now-defunct House bank. One campaign ad called Durbin "a big-taxin', big-spendin', pay-grabbin' liberal congressman."
Before the national convention, Durbin's campaign strategy was questioned by some Democrats, who felt he was not aggressively responding to Salvi's attacks.
But Durbin took advantage of the convention's location by replenishing his campaign treasury and took to the airwaves in the general election campaign in the fall. In addition, he was named chairman of the Illinois delegation to the convention, reaping the publicity and exposure that comes with the position.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
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