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Lowell P. Weicker, Jr.
Weicker was born in Paris, France. Weicker is a graduate of Lawrenceville Academy, Yale University (class of 1953), and the University of Virginia Law School. Weicker began his political career after serving in the U.S. Army (1953-1955) during the Korean War.
Weicker served in the Connecticut State House of Representatives from 1962 to 1966 and as first selectman of Greenwich, Connecticut before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968 as a Republican. Weicker only served one term in the House before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970; he served in the U.S. Senate for three terms from 1971 to 1989 before being defeated for a fourth term by Joe Lieberman. During his Senate service, Weicker was always regarded as somewhat of a maverick, and a moderate-to-liberal voice in an increasingly-conservative Republican Party.
Weicker was then a professor at the George Washington University School of Law before returning to Connecticut to run for Governor in 1990, this time as an independent. He gained national attention with his upset victory in November, but did not run for reelection in 1994.
Weicker's political career appeared to be over after his 1988 defeat for reelection to the Senate by Joseph Lieberman, but two years later he ran for Governor of Connecticut as a member of A Connecticut Party against Republican John Rowland and Democrat Bruce Morrison. The most volatile issue facing Connecticut at that time was the attempt to implement a broad-based state income tax. Connecticut had traditionally had no state income tax except for a fairly steep one imposed on "unearned income" such as interest and dividends. Weicker ran on a platform of being able to solve the Connecticut fiscal crisis without the implementation of a broader-based income tax to include the taxation of earned income.
However, shortly after his inauguration Weicker reversed his field totally and became an advocate of such a tax. Liberal forces applauded his "political courage" and his willingness to "face reality", while conservative forces were equally quick to denounce him in no uncertain terms as a "liar" and a "traitor." The broad income tax he had come to favor passed the General Assembly. However, a huge protest rally in Hartford held shortly after it was implemented and the withholding for it begun allegedly attracted over 50,000 participants. After this, the Assembly passed a measure repealing the broad-based income tax, which was subsequently vetoed by Governor Weicker. The override of the veto fell a vote short, and the massively unpopular tax was in effect permanently. Weicker's critics are quick to blame his implementation of the state income tax for Connecticut being the only U.S. state actually to lose population between the 1990 census and the 2000 census. However, Weicker also has a cadre of supporters who insist that he was the only person who could have solved the state's ongoing fiscal problems and had the courage to address them directly and forthrightly, and also note that the enactment of the income tax was coupled with a reduction of the state's sales tax to a level comparable to that of surrounding states, benefitting Connecticut merchants. Critics respond that since the income tax was implemented that studies show that Connecticut has gone from being one of the lowest-taxed per capita of the fifty states to one of the highest, if not the highest. However, Weicker supporters contend that only since his implementation of the income tax has their been an adequate stream of state revenue, including funding for areas which Connecticut voters had previously expressed support for in theory but then were unwilling to pay for, and note that Connecticut still has the highest per capita income of any of the 50 U.S. states. Weicker has a reputation in any event for courting controversy, and as such is well-liked by his friends and deeply disliked by his detractors. The income tax controversy may well have prompted Weicker not to seek any further term as governor, but there seems to be little indication that he had ever intended to make that office a career as he had his Senate service.
In 2000 Weicker was encouraged to seek the Reform Party presidential nomination by some party activitists opposed to the candidacy of conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, but declined. In 2004 Weicker was a supporter of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's presidential bid.
|Governor of Connecticut|
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