REPUBLICAN candidates for the Senate came by to chat with...

August 04, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

REPUBLICAN candidates for the Senate came by to chat with editorial writers, and Ruthann Aron gave Bill Brock a hard time about his civil rights votes when he was in Congress.

The worst was in 1964, when he voted against the Omnibus Civil Rights Act. Brock offered some excuses, instead of saying what he should have said, "That was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

The South of those days is as remote as Tara, politically speaking. When Tennessean Brock was elected to the House in 1962, he became one of only 11 Republicans among the 106 representatives from the states of the old Confederacy. There was only one Republican senator from those states.

Today there are 47 Republican representatives (out of a total of 125 from those same 11 states), and 10 of the 22 Southern senators are Republicans. It is entirely possible that next January a majority of the Southern representatives and senators will be Republicans.

And a lot of them will be native Yankees! They are now! Lawzy, Miss Scarlett!

Only 10 of 78 Southern Democratic representatives were born outside the Old South, but 17 of the 47 Southern Republican representatives were. That number includes the next House minority leader (if not speaker), Newt Gingrich, a native of Pennsylvania.

The Republican boom in the South is so strong, it makes me wonder why Brock didn't go back home to re-enter politics. His old state, which holds its primary today, may well be the best opportunity for Republicans anywhere in the nation.

One Senate seat (the one Al Gore resigned to a seat-warmer) and the governorship are now held by Democrats who are not running for re-election. Republicans believe they can take those. Some even believe they can take the other Senate seat held by the popular Jim Sasser, who is being tarred as too close to Bill Clinton. Republicans also believe they can pick up two or perhaps three House seats in Tennessee.

It may be wishful thinking on the Republicans' part to expect to win a majority of Southern seats in Congress in 1994, but it may not be. They only need to pick up 16 new House seats and two Senate seats. (One Senate gain makes it 11-11.) Republicans believe they'll win at least that one in Tennessee and one in Virginia. In the House, given the fact that 10 Southern Democrats are quitting this year, from districts where George Bush ran very well, a 16-seat gain this year is not too tall an order.

Most Republican representatives represent the new suburban South: white, middle class, very conservative. On the last big civil rights bill (1991; non-compromised version), Southern Democrats voted "Yea" in the House 64-12. Southern Republicans voted "No" 36-1. After a compromised version was fashioned, Southern Republicans voted for it 21-13 (Southern Democrats, 73-1). They're not exactly rednecks in Gingrich Country. Sort of pinknecks.

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