A Republican of substance
Jennifer Dunn was a Republican of substance. In the year after her party surrendered the Senate and House, and in which Republicans seem...
Jennifer Dunn was a Republican of substance.
In the year after her party surrendered the Senate and House, and in which Republicans seem to be flaking off the national administration like rust, it is especially fitting to recall this state's most prominent Republican woman. The retired six-term congresswoman, who died Tuesday night, was an optimist. She named one of her sons Reagan, after her favorite politician, and she had some of her hero's sunny demeanor. Maybe it fooled some people, but inside she had the will of a rugged politician.
William Safire of The New York Times once wrote, "Why isn't Jennifer Dunn more ambitious?" Perhaps she could have gone further, but in 1988 she took on Rep. Dick Armey of Texas in a fight to be House majority leader. She lost, but was the first woman to have tried.
"She was a glass-ceiling breaker," said Slade Gorton, who was in the Senate then.
Dunn's goal was to become a national player, and she was. She was the first woman in the national Republican leadership. In 1999, when President Clinton was in an impeachment trial, Dunn was one of two House members chosen by the party to respond on national TV to his State of the Union address.
Dunn was an early supporter of George W. Bush, after first going to Austin to check him out. One of the things she wanted to see was how he treated his wife. Another was what he would say about single mothers — because she was one. Bush passed muster, and in early 1999 Dunn raised more than $100,000 for him.
In 2004 he asked her to run against Sen. Patty Murray. She declined. She wanted a private life. Maybe Safire was right — from a strictly careerist point of view.
Dunn was a pro-business, pro-technology, pro-trade Republican who understood the economic interests of her district. In the most trade-dependent state, she pushed to give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements — and, in the same interest, to oppose his farm bill, which impeded the cause of open trade.
Also representing her district — and an older Republicanism — she pushed to add 800 acres to Mount Rainier National Park and refused to support oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
She represented her district, and America, well.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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