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Senatorial Primaries in New York, Florida Cast Long Shadow over New Senate Foreign Relations Committ

September 15, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Last Tuesday’s Senatorial primary elections in New York and Florida cast a long shadow over the probable complexion of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the new Congress organizes next January.

In New York, the Republicans denied nomination to Jacob Javits, their ranking member on that all-important committee which has strong influence on U.S. foreign policy and on whoever is President. Instead of the liberal Javits, with a record of 24 years in the Senate and a specialist in foreign affairs, the Republicans, in a stunning upset, gave their nomination to a conservative, Alfonse D’Amato, the 43-year-old Presiding Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead in Long Island. D’Amato also has the nomination of the Conservative and Right to Life Parties, thus being assured of three lines on the ballot.

The Democrats in New York nominated 38 year-old, three-term Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. She upset three opponents, including Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America, who was favored by New York’s major Democratic powers, and former New York City Mayor John Lindsay. Several surveys showed that Ms. Holtzman, who is giving up her House seat to run for the Senate, ran ahead of Ms. Meyerson among Jewish voters and led the field among Catholic voters.


In Florida, Sen. Richard Stone, chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, was forced into a tough runoff for the Democratic nomination for a second tem. His opponent is Florida Insurance Commissioner, Bill Gunther.

Stone edged out Gunther in the primaries by 12,000 votes in about one million votes cast among six Democratic candidates. Stone has 31 percent of the total vote, one more percentage point than Gunther. The runoff will take place Oct. 7. Six years ago, Stone defeated Gunther in a runoff but the political currents flowing his Presidential election year in Florida may make it more difficult for Stone to overcome Gunther a second time.


In Utah, the Democrats nominated Dan Berman, a Jewish lawyer of Salt Lake City, making his first statewide race, as their Senatorial candidate. Berman will oppose Republican Senator Jake Garn, who is heavily favored to win a second term. Utah is known for ticket splitting in general elections. In 1972 it gave 72 percent of its vote to Richard Nixon while electing a Democratic Governor by the identical margin.

Berman, who specialized in anti-trust law, is a graduate of Williams College and Columbia University Law School. He was born in Washington, D.C. and is the son of a retired law professor at Idaho University in Moscow, Idaho. Berman has four daughters by his first marriage. He remarried two years ago.

Although Javits was nominated by the Liberal Party and will be on that line in the New York ballot in November, unless a political miracle occurs, Javits will not be back in the Senate. Even if he is elected, Washington sources consider it unlikely that the Senate Republican Policy Committee, which decides membership, will name Javits as its leader on foreign relations in the Senate, since New York Republicans have rejected him.

If Javits does not return to the Senate for a fifth term, Sen. Charles Percy of illinois would hold seniority as the committee’s ranking Republican. However, Percy is now the ranking Republican on the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Republican rules preclude a Senator from having two such Senate leadership posts. If Percy declines, Tennessee Senator Howard Baker would have priority for the Javits position.

Some Republican friends of Javits were encouraging him here to make the stiff race for the Senate seat. They noted that only about 20 percent of the state’s Republicans voted in the primary in which D’Amato won both statewide and in New York City. “People now recognize they were sleeping for the primaries and did not get worked up for Javits, “according to one prominent Jewish Republican in New York City.

“They took it for granted he would win in the primary. In the general election people will recognize his services and look to him to continue.” that Republican leader said.


Others, however, had a different perspective. Although undefeated in 32 years in politics, Javits, now 76, was targeted by D’Amato for age, health and liberalism. Minority party members have won in New York in the past in some instances. A classic case was in 1970 when James Buckley, wearing the Conservative Party label, was elected Senator. He won when the incumbent Liberal Republican, Sen. Charles Goodell, and the Democratic candidate, Richard Ottinger, divided the liberal and moderate vote.

While many who normally vote Democratic have given favorable ratings to Javits, according to assessments of voters leaving the polls in New York last Tuesday, a question raised is whether votes for Javits and not for Holtzman in November would bring victory for D’ Amoto, as happened 10 years ago in the Buckley victory.

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