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John V. Tunney: Wikis

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John Varick Tunney


In office
January 2, 1971 – January 1, 1977
Preceded by George Murphy
Succeeded by S. I. Hayakawa

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 38th district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 2, 1971
Preceded by Patrick M. Martin
Succeeded by Victor Veysey

Born June 26, 1934 (1934-06-26) (age 75)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Yale University
Hague Academy of International Law
University of Virginia
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Rank Captain
Unit Judge Advocate General's Corps

John Varick Tunney (born June 26, 1934), is a former Democratic Party United States Senator and Representative. He is the son of the famous heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney and Connecticut socialite Polly Lauder Tunney.

Tunney graduated from Yale University, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall, in 1956. He attended the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1959, where he was a roommate of future Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, who remained a close friend. Tunney was admitted to the Virginia and New York bars in 1959 and practiced law in New York City.

Tunney joined the United States Air Force as a judge advocate and served until he was discharged as a captain in April 1963. He taught business law at the University of California, Riverside in 1961 and 1962. In 1963 he was admitted to practice law in California. He was a special adviser to the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime from 1963 until 1968.

Tunney was elected as a Democrat to be the California Representative of Riverside and Imperial Counties to the Eighty-ninth U.S. Congress and served from January 3, 1965 until his resignation on January 2, 1971.

United States Senator

In one of the most bitter primary campaigns in California history, Tunney defeated fellow Congressman George Brown, who represented a congressional district that bordered Tunney's district in the Riverside - San Bernardino area of California. One of the key issues was the draft; while Brown and Tunney both questioned the continuing and expanding U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Brown opposed continuing the military draft while Tunney favored it. This bitter primary allowed incumbent Republican George Murphy to gain a lead in the early polls. However, Murphy was in his late 60s and his speaking voice was reduced to a gravelly whisper from throat cancer while Tunney was youthful and energetic, often displaying "Kennedyesque" traits on the campaign trail. California's growing population was becoming more liberal, and Murphy's staunch support for the Vietnam War also hurt his support. While Tunney favored keeping the draft, he questioned the continuing U.S. involvement in southeast Asia. As the general election approached, Tunney overtook Murphy in the polls and steadily built a lead. Ultimately, Californians split their ticket in the 1970 mid-term election, easily re-electing Republican governor Ronald Reagan and easily electing Democrat Tunney to the Senate.

Tunney was elected in 1970 to the United States Senate representing California for a single six-year term when he submitted the Tunney Act in 1974. During this period, Senator Tunney produced a weekly radio report to California, in which he often interviewed other legislators. Tunney was renominated despite a high-profile challenge from the left in the form of Tom Hayden, but was defeated for re-election in 1976 by S. I. Hayakawa. Hayakawa, the President of San Francisco State University, was a Republican who had never held elected office. He ran as an outsider, and highlighted Tunney's numerous travels, missed Senate votes, and poor Senate attendance record during the campaign. Still, Tunney led in the polls right up to election night, despite a steadily shrinking lead as the campaign wore on. Despite Democrat Jimmy Carter's victory in the Presidential election, Tunney lost to Hayakawa in a mild upset (it is noted that Republican Gerald Ford carried California in the Presidential election). Tunney resigned his Senate seat on January 1, 1977, two days before his term was to officially expire, to allow Hayakawa to have seniority over other incoming Senators.

Tunney wrote a book, The Changing Dream.

After his defeat he played little role in politics, focusing instead on law practice and service on corporate boards. In February 2003, Tunney joined with other former Senators, including George McGovern and Fred Harris, in opposing a war with Iraq.

Tunney's successful Senate race in 1970 is reportedly the inspiration for the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate on which the writer Jeremy Larner and director Michael Ritchie based the film. (Projecting Politics: Political Messages in American Films by Terry Christensen and Peter Hass, page 146)

External links


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Patrick M. Martin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 38th congressional district

1965 – 1971
Succeeded by
Victor V. Veysey
United States Senate
Preceded by
George Murphy
United States Senator (Class 1) from California
1971 – 1977
Served alongside: Alan Cranston
Succeeded by
S.I. Hayakawa
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