Gary Hart, U.S. Senator

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Gary Warren Hartpence

Also Known As: "Gary Hart"
Birthplace: Ottawa, Franklin, Kansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Carl Riley Hartpence and Nina Hartpence

Occupation: Former US Senator
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Gary Hart, U.S. Senator

Gary Hart (born Gary Warren Hartpence; November 28, 1936) is an American politician, lawyer, author, professor and commentator. He served as a Democratic Senator representing Colorado (1975–1987), and ran in the U.S. presidential elections in 1984 and again in 1988, when he was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until various news organizations reported that he was having an extramarital affair. Since retiring from the Senate, he has emerged as a consultant on national security, and continues to speak on a wide range of issues, including the environment and homeland security. In 2001, he earned a doctorate in politics from Oxford. In 2006, Hart accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado at Denver. He also serves as Chairman for Council for a Livable World. He has written or co-authored numerous books and articles, including four novels, two under the pen name John Blackthorn.

Early life and legal career

Hart was born in Ottawa, Kansas, the son of Nina (née Pritchard) and Carl Riley Hartpence, a farm equipment salesman. He changed his last name to "Hart" in 1961. He attended Bethany Nazarene College in Bethany, Oklahoma, graduating in 1958. He graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1961 and Yale Law School in 1964.

Hart became an attorney for the United States Department of Justice from 1964 to 1965, and was admitted to the Colorado and District of Columbia bars in 1965. He was special assistant to the solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior from 1965 to 1967. He then entered private law practice in Denver, Colorado, on and off over the next seven years.

George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign

Hart occasionally calls himself the inventor of the Iowa caucuses.[citation needed] Following the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota co-chaired a commission that revised the Democratic presidential nomination structure, weakening the influence of such old-style party bosses as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who were once able to hand pick national convention delegates and dictate the way they voted. The new rules made caucuses a process in which relative newcomers could participate without paying dues to established party organizations.

In the 1972 election, McGovern named Hart his campaign manager. Along with Rick Stearns, an expert on the new system, they decided on a strategy to focus on the newly important Iowa caucuses.[citation needed] They predicted that a strong showing in Iowa would give the campaign momentum that would propel them toward the nomination and weaken the Democratic Party establishment's favored candidate, Edmund Muskie. Indeed, the strategy worked — setting a trend of focusing on the Iowa caucuses that has continued to this day — and the McGovern campaign took advantage of the Iowa results to win the nomination.[citation needed] However, Hart could not steer McGovern to the presidency. In the general election, McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

United States Senator

In 1974, Hart ran for the United States Senate, challenging two-term incumbent Republican Peter Dominick. Hart was aided by the state's trend towards Democrats during the early 1970s, as well as Dominick's continued support for the unpopular President Richard Nixon and concerns about the Senator's age and health. In the general election, Hart won by a wide margin (57.2% to Dominick's 39.5%) and was immediately labeled as a rising star. He got a seat on the Armed Services Committee and was an early supporter of reforming the bidding for military contracts, and also was an advocate the military using smaller, more mobile weapons and equipment, as opposed to the traditional large scale items. He also served on the Environment and Public Work Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In 1980 he sought a second term. In something of a surprise, his Republican opponent was Colorado Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan. Hart distanced himself from President Jimmy Carter, who was highly unpopular in Colorado, but Buchanan ran a spirited campaign and nearly won. Hart survived the Republican landslide that year by a 51% to 49% margin.

1984 presidential campaign

In February 1983, during his second term, Hart announced his candidacy for president in the 1984 presidential election. At the time of his announcement, Hart was a little-known senator and barely received above one percent in the polls against better-known candidates such as Walter Mondale, John Glenn, and Jesse Jackson. To counter this situation, Hart started campaigning early in New Hampshire, making a then-unprecedented canvassing tour in late September, months before the primary. This strategy attracted national media attention to his campaign, and by late 1983, he had risen moderately in the polls to the middle of the field, mostly at the expense of the sinking candidacies of Glenn and Alan Cranston. Mondale won the Iowa caucus in late January, but Hart polled a respectable 16 percent. Two weeks later, in the New Hampshire primary, he shocked much of the party establishment and the media by defeating Mondale by 10 percentage points. Hart instantly became the main challenger to Mondale for the nomination, and appeared to have the momentum on his side.

However, Hart's campaign could not overcome Mondale's financial and organizational advantages, especially among labor union leaders in the Midwest and industrial Northeast. Hart was chronically in debt, to a final count of $4.75 million. In states like Illinois, where delegates were elected directly by primary voters, Hart often had incomplete delegate slates. Hart's ideas were criticized as too vague and centrist by many Democrats. Shortly after he became the new frontrunner, it was revealed that Hart had changed his last name, had often listed 1937 instead of 1936 as his birth date, and had changed his signature several times. This, along with two separations from his wife, Lee, caused some to question Hart's "flake factor". Nonetheless, he and his wife have remained married for 50 years.

The two men swapped victories in the primaries, with Hart getting exposure as a candidate with "new ideas" and Mondale rallying the party establishment to his side. The two men fought to a draw in the Super Tuesday, with Hart winning states in the West, Florida, and New England. Mondale fought back and began ridiculing Hart's campaign platform. The most famous television moment of the campaign was during a debate when he mocked Hart's "new ideas" by quoting a line from a popular Wendy's television commercial at the time: "Where's the beef?" Hart's campaign could not effectively counter this remark, and when he ran negative TV commercials against Mondale in the Illinois primary, his appeal as a new kind of Democrat never entirely recovered. Hart lost the New York and Pennsylvania primaries, but won those of Ohio and Indiana.

Mondale gradually pulled away from Hart in the delegate count, but the race was not decided until June, on "Super Tuesday III". Decided that day were delegates from five states: South Dakota, New Mexico, West Virginia, California and New Jersey. The proportional nature of delegate selection meant that Mondale was likely to obtain enough delegates on that day to secure the stated support of an overall majority of delegates, and hence the nomination, no matter who actually "won" the states contested. However, Hart maintained that unpledged superdelegates that had previously claimed support for Mondale would shift to his side if he swept the Super Tuesday III primary. Once again, Hart committed a faux pas, insulting New Jersey shortly before the primary day. Campaigning in California, he remarked that while the "bad news" was that he and his wife Lee had to campaign separately, "[t]he good news for her is that she campaigns in California while I campaign in New Jersey." Compounding the problem, when his wife interjected that she "got to hold a koala bear", Hart replied that "I won't tell you what I got to hold: samples from a toxic waste dump." While Hart won California, he lost New Jersey after leading in polls by as much as 15 points.

By the time the final primaries concluded, Mondale had a considerable lead in total delegates, though he was 40 delegates short of clinching victory. Superdelegates voted overwhelmingly for Mondale at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco on July 16, making him the presidential nominee. Hart, already aware that the nomination was all but Mondale's after the final primaries, lobbied for the Vice Presidential slot on the ticket, claiming that he would do better than Mondale against President Ronald Reagan (an argument undercut by a June 1984 Gallup poll that showed both men nine points behind the president). While Hart was given serious consideration, Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro instead.

Nonetheless, this race for the nomination was the closest in two generations, and it has been the most recent occasion that a major party presidential nomination has gone all the way to the convention. Mondale was later defeated in a landslide by the incumbent Reagan, winning only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Many felt that Hart and other similar candidates, younger and more independent-minded, represented the future of the party.

1988 presidential campaign and the Donna Rice affair

Hart declined to run for re-election to the Senate, leaving office when his second term expired with the intent of running for president again. In January 1987, he was the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 election.

Hart officially declared his candidacy on April 13, 1987. Rumors began circulating nearly immediately that Hart was having an extramarital affair. In an interview that appeared in the New York Times on May 3, 1987, Hart responded to the rumors by daring the press corps: "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."[9] The Miami Herald had been investigating Hart's alleged womanizing for weeks before the "dare" appeared in the New York Times. Two reporters from the Miami Herald had staked out his residence and observed a young woman leaving Hart's Washington, D.C., townhouse on the evening of May 2. The Herald published the story on May 3, the same day Hart's dare appeared in print, and the scandal spread rapidly through the national media. Hart and his allies attacked the Herald for rushing the story into print, claiming that it had unfairly judged the situation without finding out the facts. Hart said that the reporters had not watched both entrances to his home and could not have seen when the young woman entered and left the building. The Miami Herald reporter had flown to Washington, D.C. on the same flight as the woman, identified as 29-year-old model Donna Rice. Hart was overwhelmed with questions regarding his views on marital infidelity. His wife, Lee, supported his position that the relationship with the young woman was innocent. A poll of voters in New Hampshire for the New Hampshire primary showed that Hart's support had dropped in half, from 32% to 17%, placing him suddenly ten points behind Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.

On May 5, the Herald received a further tip that Hart had spent a night in Bimini on a yacht called the Monkey Business with a woman who was not his wife.[11] The Herald obtained a photograph of Hart sitting on a dock wearing a Monkey Business T-shirt, with Rice sitting on his lap. The photograph did not appear in print until it was published on the cover of the National Enquirer on June 2, 1987.[12] On May 8, 1987, a week after the story broke, Hart dropped out of the race. At a press conference, he lashed out at the media, saying "I said that I bend, but I don't break, and believe me, I'm not broken." A Gallup Poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the U.S. respondents it surveyed thought the media treatment of Hart was "unfair." A little over half (53 percent) responded that marital infidelity had little to do with a president's ability to govern.

Not everyone was impressed with Hart's diatribe against the press. Television writer Paul Slansky noted that Hart had tried to deflect blame for his downfall from himself to the media, and that he offered no apology to betrayed supporters who now suddenly had to find other candidates to back. To many observers, the press conference was redolent of Richard Nixon's "Last Press Conference" of November 7, 1962, in which Nixon blamed the media for his loss in the 1962 California gubernatorial election. Hart, in fact, received a letter from Nixon himself commending him for "handling a very difficult situation uncommonly well".

Former National Security Council member Roger Morris suggests in his book Partners in Power, the Clintons and Their America that the alleged Hart-Rice sex scandal was really an intelligence operation to deny Hart the presidency. CIA agent Chip Tatum claims to have been tasked with "neutralizing" Hart. Hart's biggest offense, according to Morris, was his advocacy of "further investigation and exposure of the alliance between the mob and the US intelligence community."[14] The Miami Herald's account of how it researched and produced the Gary Hart-Donna Rice story was said to be closely examined by investigative reporters from the national media after allegations were made that the story may have been initiated by conspirators to eliminate Hart as a viable candidate. Since then, no story has ever been published by the national media challenging The Herald's account of how one of Ms Rice's own girl friends called the paper with the original tip that Rice was planning to meet with Hart at his home in Washington. According to The Herald, after the original tip, no one outside The Herald's reporting team influenced the surveillance and reporting that produced the story.

In December 1987, Hart returned to the race, declaring "Let's let the people decide!"[15] He competed in the New Hampshire primary and received 4,888 votes, approximately four percent. After the Super Tuesday contests on March 8, he withdrew from the campaign a second time.

[edit] Later career

After his Senate service and presidential races, Hart resumed his law practice. He remained moderately active in politics, serving on the bipartisan US Commission on National Security/21st Century, also known as the Hart–Rudman Commission, commissioned on behalf of Bill Clinton in 1998 to study U.S. homeland security. The commission issued several findings calling for broad changes to security policy, but none was implemented until after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He earned a D.Phil. in politics from the University of Oxford in 2001, where he was a member of St Antony's College.

In late 2002, urged by former Oxford classmates, Hart began testing the waters for another run for the presidency, launching a website at and a related speaking tour to gauge reactions from the public. He started his own blog in the spring of 2003, the first prospective presidential candidate to do so. After a few months of speaking, Hart decided not to run for president and instead endorsed Democrat John Kerry. According to an October 23, 2004, National Journal article and later reports in the Washington Post, Hart was mentioned as a probable Cabinet appointment if Kerry won the presidency. He was considered a top candidate for either Director of National Intelligence, Secretary of Homeland Security, or Secretary of Defense.

Since May 2005 he has been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (better known as the CFR). Hart also sits on the Advisory Board of Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based international relief and development agency. It was announced in January 2006 that Hart will hold an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado. He is the author of James Monroe, part of the Times Books series on American presidents, ISBN 0-8050-6960-7, published in October 2005. Hart is an Honorary Fellow of the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin. He is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

In September 2007, The Huffington Post published Hart's letter, "Unsolicited Advice to the Government of Iran", in which he stated that "Provocation is no longer required to take America to war" and warns Iran that "for the next sixteen months or so, you should not only not take provocative actions, you should not seem to be doing so." He went on to suggest that the Bush-Cheney administration was waiting for an opportunity to attack Iran. ("Don't give a certain vice president we know the justification he is seeking to attack your country.")

Hart linked American energy policy with national security in an essay published in 5280, the Denver city magazine, in November 2007. Hart wrote, "In fact, we do have an energy policy: It’s to continue to import more than half our oil and sacrifice American lives so we can drive our Humvees. This is our current policy, and it is massively immoral." Hart currently sits on the board of directors for the Energy Literacy Advocates. He founded the American Security Project in 2007 and he started a new blog, "Matters of Principle", in 2009. He and his wife, Lee, are residents of Kittredge, Colorado.

In popular culture

In the final chapter of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower, the character Susannah Dean travels to an alternate 1980s New York City where Gary Hart is President.
In a third season episode of the television sitcom The Golden Girls, when it is asked what Rose Nylund (dressed in a robe and slippers) does, her roommate Dorothy responds, "She's Gary Hart's campaign manager -- it doesn't pay much, but you don't have to get out of bed to do it."
He appeared as himself on an episode of Cheers (episode 425; "Strange Bedfellows part 2").


Electoral history

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Gary Hart, U.S. Senator's Timeline

November 28, 1936
Ottawa, Franklin, Kansas, United States