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Northwest may never see another Republican like Hatfield

Mark Hatfield fought against wars launched by presidents of both parties and championed aid for the poor, while remaining loyal to his party's leaders.

Then-Sen. Mark Hatfield speaking at a ceremony in 1986 marking opening of the first MAX light rail line in Portland.

Then-Sen. Mark Hatfield speaking at a ceremony in 1986 marking opening of the first MAX light rail line in Portland. Steve Morgan/Wikimedia Commons

Mark Hatfield as governor of Oregon.

Mark Hatfield as governor of Oregon. State of Oregon/Wikipedia

Mark Hatfield was the epitome of what it meant to be a moderate, and successful, Oregon Republican in the last half of the 20th Century. Many Oregonians still refer to themselves as "Hatfield Republicans" in the same manner as Washingtonians still invoke the name of Dan Evans to denote distance from the party's conservative wing.

Hatfield, who died in Portland on Sunday (Aug. 7) at age 89, was to the Oregon governorship much like Evans, and to Oregon's U.S. Senate delegation much like Washington's Warren Magnuson and Henry (Scoop) Jackson. No other Northwest figure was as effective in both state and national politics.

Hatfield served in elective office continuously from 1950, when he won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, to his 1997 retirement after 30 years in the U.S. Senate, where he twice chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Known in later years as one who delivered expensive projects to his home state, in the manner of Washington's Magnuson, Hatfield entered the Senate as an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, the only governor to oppose President Lyndon B. Johnson's war policy in 1966. The 1970 Hatfield-McGovern resolution against the Vietnam War was followed in 1990 by Hatfield's vote against the Persian Gulf War; he was one of only two GOP senators voting against the invasion to free Kuwait from Iraq's occupation.

My last conversation with Mark Hatfield was in 2004, when we lunched together in Portland. The senator and I shared an interest in Oregon history, and he had a writing project he wanted me to pursue. Conversation turned to his role as honorary chair of the George W. Bush re-election campaign in Oregon and the senator vigorously defended the then-president, despite Hatfield's long opposition to America's wars of the last four decades. A less-likely pair than Bush and Hatfield is hard to imagine, but Hatfield remained a loyal Republican whose votes on major issues often opposed the party line but who always supported the party nominee. He danced with the one who brought him, although it was often awkwardly choreographed.

Perhaps the most awkward dance —one that failed — was when the Newt Gingrich generation of Republicans took the House of Representatives in 1995 and sent a balanced budget constitutional amendment to the Senate. Hatfield, then chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was under massive pressure to vote to refer the measure to the states for approval. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, planning his 1996 campaign to defeat President Bill Clinton, leaned on the veteran Hatfield, but Hatfield, loyalty to the appropriations process and the Senate's institutional independence, cast the lone Republican vote against the amendment. It failed in the Senate by one vote: Hatfield's. Two young Republican senators tried to strip him of his powerful chairmanship, to no avail.

I met the young Hatfield during his first campaign for governor in 1958. He was a rising star, serving as Oregon Secretary of State, handsome and mannerly, an articulate Baptist with a scholarly approach to politics. He understood grassroots organization and already had around him several longtime friends dedicated to his career. He swept aside the incumbent governor, Democrat Robert Holmes.

Personally and politically, Hatfield was the most complex and most successful Oregon politician of his time. Although a natural for television in many ways, Hatfield never relaxed around cameras or reporters and had few close friends in media. His Senate office was always quite buttoned-down, and his personal papers — at his alma mater, Willamette University in Salem — are closed and probably will remain that way for years. A public man all his life, he protected his privacy and personal life. Little in the way of details about his health or death was made public immediately. Friends had described his condition as "frail," and at the end his family released no cause of death. He lived for much of the past year at the care center of the National Institutes of Health in suburban Washington, D.C., a unit that bore his name; a twin unit was named for Magnuson. The two senators had been crucial to expansion of the facility.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 4:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for the great overview of a remarkable career.

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 5:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Excellent piece on a leader I admired for many years for integrity and smarts, even when it went against the grain. As a Vancouver kid in the 1960s, Hatfield and McCall were "ours" as quasi-Oregonians.

Ammons

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 5:55 p.m. Inappropriate

A thoughtful, incisive, well-written tribute. Thanks, Floyd.

Best, Pete J.

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 9:10 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks, Prof. McKay for an insightful piece. I grew in Washington on the Oregon border in a blue-collar, rabidly Democratic household, but my mother made one exception for a Republican--Mark Hatfield and his principled opposition to Vietnam.

bkochis

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 10:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Saying he "championed timber policies...opposed by enviros" is an understatement. Hatfield, Scoop and Maggie funneled hundreds of millions every year to carve logging roads across NW National Forests, a legacy that will never go away. But that was just business as usual. Hard to believe the Republican tent was big enough to include him when you look at the people in it today.

Posted Mon, Aug 8, 11:26 p.m. Inappropriate

From the Oregon side of the river, I saw Hatfield in the same vein as Dan Evans and Warren Magnuson to the north...but also in the tradition of Oregon mavericks like Wayne Morse, Richard Neuberger (succeeded by his wife Maureen following his death), and Tom McCall. All are northwest politicians harking back to a different era of independence, firmer integrity, and broader vision of the public good (not to deny their foibles and frailties). Hatfield left the Senate under a cloud, but thanks to your article, "the good will not be interred with his bones."

Seneca

Posted Tue, Aug 9, 9:53 a.m. Inappropriate

I am old enough to recall another maverick from Oregon, Senator Morse! and the first US Senator I met in person, he came to Oakwood School, outside Poughkeepsie, in 1954. A Quaker School, we also had Eleanor Roosevelt as our graduation speaker, Pete Seeger came to shake the rafters, and lots of kids whose parents were victimized by Senator McCarthy. Gave one, me, fresh in this country, the entirely wrong idea about what this country was like. http://www.facebook.com/mike.roloff1?ref=name

mikerol

Posted Thu, Aug 11, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

In 1997 was the PR manager for the Portland Rose Festival Association, and Sen, Hatfield was selected as the Grand Marshall of the Rose Festival Parade that year.

I met him briefly a few times the years prior when I worked for as spokesperson for the Clinton Administration's Northwest Forest Plan, and at a semi-formal evening event to introduce him and the Rose Festival Court, Sen. Hatfield came up to me and said "Fine job with the forest plan - I'll bet this job is a lot more fun!"

Class, warmth and humor. Rare man indeed.

Clarence Moriwaki

Posted Fri, Aug 12, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

No more Hatfields. No more Evans. And the downhill spiral of the country shows the results of that.

Goforride

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