Sen. John Heinz

April 11, 1991

Sen. H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania, who was killed in a plane crash last week, was one of those moderate Republicans of the sort who used to outrage the party's Western and Southern conservatives when the GOP was controlled by what they referred to as "the liberal Eastern establishment."

An heir to the H.J. Heinz food-condiment fortune, he started out in politics as an aide to the Keystone State's best-known Republican, Sen. Hugh Scott. During almost two decades in Congress, Senator Heinz often voted with Maryland's Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias. Year in and year out, the Pennsylvanian's overall voting record was a just a bit to the right of Senator Mathias' liberal inclinations.

It was on civil rights that this breed of Republican stands most apart from colleagues. Like Senators Mathias and Scott, Mr. Heinz was a stalwart on this issue. Last year, for example, he was one of only eight Republican senators who voted with Democrats for the civil rights bill every time -- on stopping debate, on strengthening the bill, on final passage and to override President Bush's veto.

Senator Heinz, who was 52, disappointed those who believed in free trade, but given his western Pennsylvania background, where imports are seen as the cause of the decline of the steel industry, his protectionist leanings were understandable. He was a strong advocate for the elderly poor and near-poor, working successfully in Congress to strengthen laws regarding private pensions, Social Security and Medicare.

Republicans who don't swim in the conservative mainstream are seldom able to affect the course of that stream, but as Senator Heinz's career showed, they can still make important contributions. The party and the nation need more than one variety of Republican. Senator Heinz will be missed.

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