Foley's fans may evict him

November 03, 1991|By Paul West | Paul West,Sun Staff Correspondent

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Like many folks here in Representative Thomas S. Foley's home town, Shawn Peroff thinks the House speaker is just "great."

But on Tuesday, he'll vote for a measure that would send his congressman into involuntary retirement in 1994.

"That's the way it is," says Mr. Peroff, who attends Gonzaga University in Spokane, where Mr. Foley once taught constitutional law.

Mike Schnurr, a Spokane insurance broker, agrees that congressional term limits are a necessary counter to the enormous advantages of incumbency.

"So many people are career politicians. They're just in it for themselves," he says. "We need more normal people there."

"I really do like Tom Foley," adds Mr. Schnurr's wife, Diana, who works for a bank. "But you have to look at the whole picture. Unfortunately, we can't treat him individually."

Like the cold breezes that have dusted snow across the emerald fields of new winter wheat, a quiet political revolution is sweeping this tidy eastern Washington city of 200,000.

In keeping with the tradition of sending promising young politicians East and keeping them there, Spokane has elected Tom Foley every two years since 1964. He, in turn, replaced a man who represented the area for 22 years.

In fact, foes of the anti-incumbent initiative joke that Mr. Foley, arguably the state's most popular and revered political figure, is one of their three best arguments against term limits. The other ++ two, they add, are dead: former Sens. Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson. Tangible evidence of their legendary political clout is everywhere.

Mr. Foley spoke out strongly against the proposal yesterday. He called the proposition a "rather arrogant insult to the electorate" that suggests that voters are unable to decide whether an incumbent should be retained, the Associated Press reported.

He said that the proposal is "unambiguously unconstitutional" and that he probably would join a court challenge if it passes, the AP said.

Opponents of term limits say if the measure is rejected by the voters Tuesday, it will be because of fears the state's political influence will be lessened.

"If all the states would have it," remarked a bearded Spokane man, an opponent of term limits, "it would be great."

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