By Congressional Quarterly
Sununu is the son of one of New Hampshire's most famous politicians. His father, John H. Sununu, served as governor of New Hampshire from 1983 and 1989 and went on to become White House chief of staff to President George Bush.
The family name undoubtedly was an asset for the younger Sununu, particularly in the hard-fought Republican primary. But making his first bid for elective office, he tried to emphasize his background in business and mechanical engineering rather than his political connections.
Sununu says he understands the importance of small businesses and their contributions to job creation. He points to his experience helping manage a manufacturing firm.
He plans to focus his efforts in Congress on finding ways to help small businesses and working families. This includes a pledge to oppose any increase in individual or business tax rates.
He also backs a reduction in capital gains and inheritance taxes and a $500-per-child tax credit.
Among other proposals to cut spending and help balance the federal budget, Sununu advocates eliminating a handful of cabinet departments, including Energy, Commerce, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. He also says the government should end agriculture, sugar and marketing subsidies to large corporations.
Education was a topic of much debate during Sununu's campaign. While he calls for abolishing the Education Department and sending funds directly to states and communities in the form of block grants, he does not favor any reductions in funding.
Sununu was given spots on the Budget and Government Reform and Oversight Committees. Like most of the Republicans elected in recent years, he backs term limits for members of Congress.
He also says members should reform the congressional pension and mail systems.
Given his name identification and political connections, Sununu walked into the contest with an instant edge. But his task proved much more difficult than expected.
Sununu had to get past seven other Republicans before he could take on Democratic lawyer Joseph F. Keefe, who was unopposed for his party's nomination. Sununu's main competition for the Republican nomination was Manchester Mayor Raymond J. Wieczorek and Jack Heath, who had resigned as news director for WMUR-TV, New Hampshire's only statewide television station.
With no major differences between the candidates on issues, Sununu's challenge was to stay above the fray as Heath and Wieczorek questioned his commitment to cutting taxes and balancing the budget. The sheer number of Republicans in the race, however, elevated the importance of name identification.
That helped Sununu squeak by Wieczorek to clinch the GOP nod.
Even though the Republican Party has long dominated politics in New Hampshire, Sununu had to contend with a remarkably strong Democratic year in the Granite State. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen won the contest to succeed GOP Gov. Stephen Merrill, who retired.
And two Republican incumbents, Sen. Robert C. Smith and Rep. Charles Bass, barely beat back strong challenges from Democrats.
Both Sununu and Keefe were attempting to reach for the middle, while claiming the other represented the extreme end of his party.
Keefe tried in vain to link Sununu to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. He also claimed that at age 32, Sununu lacked the experience to serve in Congress. Sununu, however, shot back that his business experience gave him a better perspective on the needs of district residents than a liberal lawyer like Keefe could have.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
New Jersey - Senate
Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.)
Born: Aug. 26, 1951, Paterson, N.J.
Education: Rutgers U., A.B. 1974, J.D. 1977; Harvard U., M.P.A. 1980.
Political Career: U.S. House, 1983-97.
By Congressional Quarterly
Torricelli won -- some would say survived -- one of the nastiest campaigns in New Jersey history, complete with attacks, counterattacks and even a phony newscast.
When Sen. Bill Bradley announced his retirement, Torricelli gave up the House seat he had held since 1983 and jumped into the race to succeed him. His opponent was another New Jersey congressman, Dick Zimmer, who originally was gearing up to run against Bradley.
The race was one of the most expensive in the nation. Because New Jersey has only one commercial television station of its own, the candidates were forced to buy ad time in the adjoining and expensive New York City and Philadelphia markets.
Though both candidates were relatively moderate, Zimmer insisted that Torricelli was "liberal and not worth it," while Torricelli called Zimmer "a mouthpiece for [Speaker] Newt Gingrich's extreme right."
The two spent the campaign running attack ads and swapping allegations that the other took campaign contributions from people with links to organized crime. Zimmer received the harshest criticism because of a commercial designed to look like a newscast, in which the "anchor" cited several newspaper accounts accusing Torricelli of ethical wrongdoing.
In the end, despite polls that until the end projected the race as too close to call, Torricelli was helped by President Clinton's strong showing in the state and won by a comfortable margin. In the Senate, he will sit on the Governmental Affairs and Judiciary committees, a change from his time in the House, where he focused primarily on international relations.
During Clinton's visits to the state, he praised Torricelli for his vote for the 1993 deficit-reduction plan, which raised income taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Zimmer repeatedly criticized Torricelli for the vote; that was backed up with a series of commercials from the National Republican Senatorial Committee also hammering Torricelli on the issue.
For his part, Torricelli tried to link Zimmer with Gingrich. The New Jersey Republican voted for the House GOP's "Contract With America" 94 percent of the time.
If his House tenure is a guide, Torricelli is likely to compile a generally liberal voting record on social issues, tempered with some bouts of fiscal conservatism.
Besides his vote for Clinton's deficit-reduction plan, Torricelli supported a balanced-budget constitutional amendment and voted for the House GOP plan to cut taxes by $189 billion over five years.
Torricelli's environmental record, which includes opposing the dumping of waste off the New Jersey coast -- a serious problem that has damaged the state's beaches and tourist industry -- and supporting efforts to preserve Sterling Forest along the New York- New Jersey border, won him the Sierra Club's endorsement.
Torricelli is a supporter of gun control, including the Brady law's five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, and the ban on many types of assault weapons. He supported efforts to ban anyone convicted of domestic violence from buying a handgun. And he backed the 1994 crime bill, which authorized $30.2 billion over six years mainly to hire more police officers, build prisons and help communities prevent crime. He backs the death penalty.
On foreign policy, Torricelli is a staunch supporter of Israel and a strong critic of Fidel Castro, a reflection of two powerful voting blocs in the state: Jews and Cuban-Americans. He has sponsored legislation to tighten the American embargo of Cuba.
Torricelli's pro-Israel voting record and the tendency of Jews to vote Democratic helped him poll 74 percent of the Jewish vote in the state, according to an American Jewish Congress exit poll. Though Zimmer is Jewish, he polled only 26 percent.
While Torricelli backed President George Bush's decision to use force in the Persian Gulf in 1991, he expressed doubts about U.S. intervention in both Haiti and Bosnia. He opposed providing American assistance to the contras trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and the El Salvador government that was fighting leftist guerrillas.
He has also been a bit of a loose cannon. A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Torricelli disclosed in March 1995 that a Guatemalan colonel who had been on the CIA payroll was responsible for the murder of an American innkeeper in Guatemala, Michael DeVine. House Republicans charged that Torricelli had violated the House secrecy oath imposed at the start of the 104th Congress.
Torricelli said he had not gotten the information from anyone connected with the Intelligence Committee but through other sources. He argued that he had a moral obligation to release the information because it showed that the CIA was involved in the murder of an American.
The House ethics committee in July 1995 said Torricelli should not be punished because the oath was vague; some members believed it applied to all information a member obtained, while others believed it applied only to information received in an official House proceeding.
Torricelli is a strong supporter of labor, voting, for example, against the North American Free Trade Agreement. Three times between 1989 and 1994, he received a perfect 100 percent score from the AFL-CIO.
Earlier in his career, Torricelli emerged as a leading defender of Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, during his ethics problems, and sought to succeed David Wilhelm as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The job eventually was split between Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Don Fowler, a party operative from South Carolina.
Torricelli also tried to become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That post went to Martin Frost of Texas.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
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