By Congressional Quarterly
Weygand, who has made his mark on state politics, now tries to put his imprint on the national scene. He got his opportunity when Democratic Rep. Jack Reed announced he would run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Clairborne Pell. Weygand, the state's lieutenant governor, lined up support from Rhode Island's powerful labor unions and quickly jumped into the race.
He was the best-financed of the candidates and the favorite to win the primary. But at the last minute, he had a new opponent: Joseph A. Paolino Jr., a former Providence mayor and former U.S. ambassador to Malta who first had toyed with running for the Senate and then decided against running for either the Senate or House. Like Weygand, Paolino had run statewide; he lost the 1990 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Paolino's entry drove several other candidates from the primary. He spent $112,500 from his own pocket on the primary. He shocked Weygand by walking away with the backing of the state Democratic Party. He contrasted his support for abortion rights with Weygand's anti-abortion stance.
Still, Weygand won, and then had little trouble dispatching physician Rick Wild in November. Wild, an anti-abortion conservative, defeated a more moderate candidate, state Sen. Robin Porter, in the GOP primary. While Rhode Islanders have elected middle-of-the-road Republicans to office, such as Sen. John H. Chafee, Wild was no moderate.
Weygand's first 15 minutes of fame came in 1991 when he played a key role in a successful FBI investigation of the mayor of Pawtucket. In 1991, Weygand, then a state legislator, was offered a $2,000 bribe by then-Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault. Weygand went to the FBI and agreed to be fitted with a hidden microphone. Wearing the listening equipment, Weygand met with Sarault in the mayor's office. After Weygand left, FBI agents burst in and arrested the mayor. The evidence Weygand provided helped send the mayor to prison.
"He's created a political career out of his situation with Sarault," state House Majority Leader George Caruolo, a fellow Democrat, told the Providence Journal-Bulletin.
Weygand got his start in politics as a member of the East Providence Planning Board before winning a seat in the state House in 1984. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1992 and re-elected in 1994 even as the Republicans were capturing the State House.
Weygand said he eventually would like a seat on the House Commerce Committee. Acknowledging that the chance was slim of landing the coveted position as a freshman, he instead turned his sights to the Small Business Committee, from which he could spearhead economic development efforts in his district. He was one of two freshman Democrats (Danny K. Davis of Illinois was the other) named to the panel. Weygand also received seats on the House Banking and Financial Services Committee and on the House Budget Committee.
Except for his opposition to abortion, Weygand will fit right in with the House Democratic caucus. He opposes the death penalty, term limits, a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, and President Clinton's decision to sign the bill overhauling welfare. He supports the family leave law and the Brady bill's waiting period for handgun purchases.
A strong supporter of labor, which returned the favor in his congressional campaign, Weygand said he supports legislation prohibiting companies from hiring permanent replacements for strikers, and opposes Republican-sponsored legislation that would make it easier to create employee-management teams. The latter bill was vetoed by Clinton.
He opposes repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay a locale's prevailing wage, usually the union wage. Weygand said he would have voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was opposed by organized labor.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
South Dakota - Senate
Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Born: Dec. 28, 1946, Canton, S.D.
Education: U. of South Dakota, B.A. 1969, M.A. 1970; Michigan State U., 1970-71; U. of South Dakota, J.D. 1975.
Family: Wife, Barbara Brooks; three children.
Political Career: S.D. House, 1979-83; S.D. Senate, 1983-87; U.S. House, 1987-97.
By Congressional Quarterly
Johnson comes to the Senate in a unique position relative to other freshmen who have come over from the House: He already is familiar with his entire state's needs as its lone representative and has a powerful ally in Tom Daschle, South Dakota's other senator and the chamber's top Democrat.
He also was the only challenger to unseat a senator in the fall of 1996. Johnson was rewarded for his victory over three-term Republican Larry Pressler with seats on the Agriculture, Energy and Banking committees.
Johnson's path to victory was anything but assured. He waged a hard-fought, closely contested battle against Pressler in which he found himself the target of relentless televised attacks branding him a liberal.
Johnson responded by characterizing Pressler as out of touch and captive to special interests. As an example, he seized upon news accounts disclosing that Pressler spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel, meals and lodging without fully accounting for their connection to his campaign, saying it was "a long way from Humboldt to Hong Kong," referring to the Republican's South Dakota hometown.
The race broke all spending records in the underpopulated state, with television ads first appearing well over a year prior to election day. The two campaigns observed an undeclared truce late in 1996, after Johnson's wife Barbara underwent cancer surgery.
Pressler's own polls showed that his unending attempts to cast Johnson as too liberal for the generally Republican state failed to convince most voters. Pressler's clout had enjoyed a growth spurt in Washington during his third term, yet he seemed to run out of gas as the year dragged on.
Pressler had raised a good-sized chunk of his campaign treasury from telecommunications interests grateful for his central role in enacting a deregulatory overhaul of law overseeing the industry, and he touted the bill as a job creator in his early campaign advertising. But Johnson scored populist points by decrying a rash of sales of TV stations to out-of-state companies and noting that South Dakota phone and cable rates had risen after passage of the bill.
The two also took different tacks on a farm law enacted by the 104th Congress. Johnson said the legislation's market-oriented approach might prove too generous to farmers in good times and too parsimonious when crops or prices are poor.
Johnson also benefited from the bad press that seemed to dog Pressler in the campaign's closing weeks. As the race in which an incumbent was vulnerable, the contest drew national press, and Time magazine described Pressler, who had a reputation for gaffes, as "occasionally clueless."
In addition to the allegations that Pressler had misused campaign funds, the Republican had to contend with stories about his role in the Abscam investigation and rumors about his personal life. Although these did not seem to amount to much in the state press or in the minds of most voters, they resonated in the campaign.
Pressler accused Johnson of engineering a Sioux Falls appearance by journalist Alexander Cockburn, who did the most to spread the rumors about Pressler. Johnson denied having any connection to the group that sponsored Cockburn's appearance, which was headed by former Democratic Sen. James Abourezk. Pressler ran ads denying some of the allegations, which had not previously been well- publicized.
With a cerebral, low-key manner, Johnson usually has been a reliable Democratic vote in the House but has had a more moderate record than Daschle. Since his election to the House in 1986, he has been a tenacious advocate for his state's farms, water projects, bridges and roads.
Part of the secret to Johnson's effectiveness is his avoidance of flamboyance when securing funds for his home projects. Perhaps because of his quiet ways, relatively few members detected the irony when Johnson first proposed strengthening the president's power to rescind individual spending items -- a measure Johnson promoted as "legislation to cut out pork barrel spending." He supported passage of a line-item veto bill in 1995.
He will join Daschle in a variety of agriculture-related causes that are important to farm-state senators of both parties, such as the protection of the ethanol industry. In the 103rd Congress, Johnson chaired the Agriculture Environment, Credit and Rural Development Subcommittee, where much of his work centered on overhauling the federally backed crop insurance program. His management of the program was successful, although there were criticisms about how it was financed.
Johnson also is likely to be active on matters involving senior citizens, an important constituency in South Dakota. He sponsored legislation in the House that would have penalized companies found to charge excessive prices for prescription drugs and has vowed to continue working on the issue.
During the 1996 campaign, Johnson touted his efforts to protect Social Security from across-the-board cuts and his support of proposals to reduce or eliminate financial penalties imposed on senior citizens who work during their retirement years.
On social issues, Johnson tended to follow his party, although he does not support federal abortion funding. He voted for the Brady bill, which requires a five-day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun, saying a temporary waiting period creates "only negligible inconvenience to law-abiding handgun owners." On a bill banning 19 types of assault weapons, Johnson voted "no," but in August 1994 he supported the Clinton-backed crime bill, which included an assault weapons ban. He voted to repeal the ban in 1996.
Johnson also voted for a welfare overhaul law enacted by the 104th Congress, but had opposed two earlier versions.
© 1997, Congressional Quarterly Inc. All rights reserved.
AllPolitics home page
Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved