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Speaker of the House Tom Foley

Thomas Stephen Foley (born March 26, 1929 in Spokane, Washingtonmarker) is an Americanmarker politician of the Democratic Party, having served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and ambassador to Japanmarker. He served in the United States Congress from 1965 to 1995. His thirty-year career in Congress was notable for its length and for his steady climb up the ranks of the Congressional and party leadership. However, his defeat in the 1994 Congressional elections made him the first sitting Speaker since 1862 not to win re-election to Congress.

Early life and legal practice

In 1946, Foley graduated from the Jesuit-run Gonzaga Preparatory Schoolmarker in Spokane. He is an Eagle Scout.
He went on to attend the Gonzaga Universitymarker in Spokane and the University of Washingtonmarker in Seattlemarker, the latter awarded him a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951. In 1957, he earned a law degree from the same university.

Following law school, Foley entered private practice. In 1958, he began working in the Spokane County prosecutor's office as a deputy prosecuting attorney. Foley taught at Gonzaga Universitymarker Law School (in Spokane, Washingtonmarker) from 1958 to 1959. In 1960, he joined the office of the State of Washington Attorney General.

In 1961, Foley moved to Washington, D.C.marker, and joined the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs as assistant chief clerk and special counsel, in which capacity he served until 1963.

Congressional service

In 1964, Foley won the Democratic nomination for Washington's 5th congressional district, which was based in Spokane. He faced 11-term Republican incumbent Walt Horan and won by seven points, one of several Democrats elected in the gigantic Democratic landslide of that year. He was re-elected without much trouble until 1978, when he barely defeated conservative activist Duane Alton. In 1980, physician John Sonneland nearly defeated Foley, only losing by 4 points. Foley didn't face serious opposition again until 1994, even as his district became more conservative.

In 1981, Foley was chosen majority whip by the House Democratic caucus and served in that capacity until 1986, when he moved up to the position of majority leader. In 1989, Jim Wright of Texasmarker stepped down as Speaker of the House amid an ethics scandal, and Foley was elected to succeed him. He became the first Speaker from a state west of the Rocky Mountains.

Term limits

During his time in the House, Foley repeatedly opposed efforts to impose term limits on Washington state's elected officials, winning the support of the state's voters to reject term limits in a 1991 referendum. However, in 1992, a term limit ballot initiative was approved by the state's voters.

Foley brought suit, challenging the constitutionality of a state law setting eligibility requirements on federal offices. Foley won his suit, with federal courts declaring that states did not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to limit the terms of federal officeholders.

However, in Foley's bid for a 16th term in the House, his Republican opponent, George Nethercutt, used the issue against him, repeatedly citing the caption of the federal case brought by Foley, "Foley against the People of the State of Washington." Nethercutt vowed that if elected, he would not serve more than three terms in the House (but ultimately served for five terms). Foley lost in a narrow race that coincided with the Republican electoral triumph of 1994. While Foley had usually relied on large margins in Spokane itself to carry him to victory, in 1994 he only won Spokane by 9,000 votes while Nethercutt did well enough in the rest of the district to win overall by just under 4,000 votes.

Foley became the first sitting Speaker of the House to lose his bid for re-election since Galusha Grow in 1862. He is now commonly viewed as a political casualty of the term limits controversy of the early 1990s.

Electoral history

Here is a chart of the vote in his elections. There are subtotals for the city of Spokane, rural Spokane County, and a Spokane total, as this is the main part of the 5th Congressional District.
Year Candidate Party Spokane outside county district
1994 Tom Foley D 39331 35323 74654 106074
George Nethercutt* R 30265 41065 71330 110057
1992 Tom Foley* D 49675 45919 95594 135965
John Sonneland R 32508 40108 72616 110443
1990 Tom Foley* D 38553 37121 75674 110234
Marlyn Derby R 15082 18363 33445 49965
1988 Tom Foley* D 56249 53791 110040 160654
Marlyn Derby R 14438 17772 32210 49657
1986 Tom Foley* D 43011 37939 80950 121732
Floyd Wakefield R 12510 14281 26791 41179
1984 Tom Foley* D 56820 49360 106180 154988
John Sonneland R 20517 23729 44246 67438
1982 Tom Foley* D 39810 32362 72172 109549
John Sonneland R 18482 20420 38902 60816
1980 Tom Foley* D 41256 31604 72860 120530
John Sonneland R 32857 33662 66519 111705
1978 Tom Foley* D 28346 18858 47204 77201
Duane Alton R 20923 18942 39865 68761
Mel Tonasket I 5574 4580 10154 14887
1976 Tom Foley* D 41720 27905 69625 120415
Duane Alton R 30318 25519 55837 84262
Bear Sandahl L 834 407 1241 1959
Ira Liebowitz USL 403 181 584 935
1974 Tom Foley* D 30717 18726 49443 87959
Gary Gage R 16925 12020 28945 48739
1972 Thomas S Foley* D 58282 35060 93342 150580
Clarice Privette R 12468 8637 21105 34742
1970 Tom Foley* D 40791 20532 61323 88189
George Gamble R 19926 11928 31854 43376
1968 Thomas Foley* D 41203 19227 60430 88446
Richard Bond R 29659 16988 46647 67304
1966 Thomas Foley* D 35533 15334 50867 74571
Dorothy Powers R 25357 13232 38589 57310
1964 Thomas S Foley* D 41377 17587 58964 84830
Walt Horan (Inc) R 32262 16757 49019 73884

Later career

In 1997, Foley was appointed as the 25th U.S. Ambassador to Japanmarker by President Bill Clinton. He served as ambassador until 2001.

Foley was awarded an honorary Companion of Honour by the government of the UKmarker.

Foley was a Washingtonmarker delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

On July 9, 2003, Washingtonmarker Governor Gary Locke awarded the Washington State Medal of Merit, the state's highest honor, to Foley.

He was North American Chairman of the Trilateral Commission.



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