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Candidate Profile from Congressional Quarterly

Jim Bunning (R) of Southgate
Open Seat - Current House Member
  • Born: October 23, 1931, Campbell County.
  • Education: Xavier U., B.S., 1953.
  • Military Service: None.
  • Occupation: Investment broker; sports agent; professional baseball player.
  • Family: Wife, Mary Catherine Theis; nine children.
  • Religion: Roman Catholic.
  • Political Career: Fort Thomas City Council, 1977-79; Ky. Senate, 1979-83; Republican nominee for governor, 1983.

Bunning, who has served six terms in the House, should fit in comfortably with the growing group of ideological conservatives elected to the Senate in recent years. Fiercely anti-tax and anti-abortion, Bunning will undoubtedly find common ground with Missouri Republican Sen. John Ashcroft and other GOP conservatives.

Bunning's election gets abortion opponents one vote closer to the 67 they need to override President Clinton's veto of legislation outlawing a procedure they refer to as "partial birth" abortion.

Kentucky's new senator is also expected to establish close ties with Mitch McConnell, the state's soon-to-be senior senator. McConnell provided Bunning's campaign with strategic advice and, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, with considerable financial help. Retiring Democratic Sen. Wendell H. Ford long had testy relations with McConnell.

In the House, Bunning earned a reputation as a sharp-elbowed partisan. His aggressive political style provoked inevitable comparisons to his former life as a Major League pitcher, where he seldom gave ground to batters. Bunning's competitive approach on the diamond helped him become the only member of Congress in baseball's Hall of Fame. He was elected in 1996 on the strength of a record that included more than 100 victories in both the National and American leagues; he also notched a no-hitter in each league.

Since the GOP took over Congress in 1995, Bunning has been chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, where he championed legislation to raise the outside earnings limit for Social Security recipients. That measure, part of the GOP's "Contract with America," died in the Senate. Bunning also was a reliable supporter of a pair of his state's bread-and-butter industries tobacco and horse racing.

But Bunning's most memorable House triumph came on a subject he might know better than any member of Congress: baseball. He played a leading role in the enactment of legislation this year partially lifting baseball's anti-trust exemption, which could improve relations between players and owners.

While his conservative credentials are impeccable, Bunning has occasionally displayed a populist streak, particularly on trade. He voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 and consistently opposed annual renewals of China's most-favored-nation trading status.

In the Senate, Bunning is likely to be active in the upcoming debate over how to shore up Social Security, though he is unlikely to land a coveted seat on the Finance Committee the Senate counterpart to Ways and Means. Like many Republicans, Bunning favors privatizing a portion of the Social Security system.

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