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Man of the House

By Charles Apple The Spokesman-Review

Thirty years ago this week, Spokane’s Tom Foley was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Foley served 15 terms in the House, representing Washington’s 5th Congressional District, chaired the House Agriculture Committee and served as U.S. ambassador to Japan. Here’s a look at Foley’s political career:

1929

March 6: Thomas Stephen Foley is born in Spokane. His mother is a schoolteacher. His father would spend 34 years as a Superior Court judge.

1946

Graduates from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane. He will attend Gonzaga University for three years.

Foley in 1946
Foley in his high school senior portrait, 1946

1951

After transferring to the University of Washington in Seattle, Foley graduates. He’ll stay at UW to attend law school.

1957

Earns his law degree from the University of Washington. He returns to Spokane.

1958

Works in the Spokane County proscecutor’s office before becoming an instructor at the Gonzaga University School of Law.

Foley in 1958
Foley in 1958

1961

Is hired as assistant state attorney general but then moved to Washington, D.C., to join the staff of Sen. Henry Jackson.

1964

At Jackson’s urging, Foley runs for Washington’s 5th District seat in Congress. He runs unopposed in the Democratic primary and defeats 11-term Republican Walt Horan in the general election.

Foley beat Horan with 53.45% of the vote to Horan's 46.55% Foley beat Horan with 53.45% of the vote to Horan's 46.55%

1966

Foley beat Dorothy Powers with 56.54% of the vote to Powers's 43.46% Foley beat Dorothy Powers with 56.54% of the vote to Powers's 43.46%

1968

Foley beat Richard Bond with 56.79% of the vote to Bond's 43.21% Foley beat Richard Bond with 56.79% of the vote to Bond's 43.21%

1970

Foley beat George Gamble with 67.03% of the vote to Gamble's 32.97% Foley beat George Gamble with 67.03% of the vote to Gamble's 32.97%

1972

Foley beat Clarice Privette with 81.25% of the vote to Privette's 18.75% Foley beat Clarice Privette with 81.25% of the vote to Privette's 18.75%

1974

Foley beat Gary Gage with 64.35% of the vote to Gage's 35.66% Foley beat Gary Gage with 64.35% of the vote to Gage's 35.66%

1975

Named chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

1976

Foley beat Duane Alton with 58.01% of the vote to Alton's 40.59% Foley beat Duane Alton with 58.01% of the vote to Alton's 40.59%

1978

Foley beat Duane Alton again, with 48% of the vote to Alton's 42.75% Foley beat Duane Alton again, with 48% of the vote to Alton's 42.75%

1980

Foley beat John Sonneland with 51.90% of the vote to Sonneland's 48.10% Foley beat John Sonneland with 51.90% of the vote to Sonneland's 48.10%

1981

Appointed majority whip. Leaves the Agriculture Committee to join the House Administration Committee.

1982

Foley beat John Sonneland again, with 64.30% of the vote to Sonneland's 35.70% Foley beat John Sonneland again, with 64.30% of the vote to Sonneland's 35.70%

1984

Foley beat Jack Hebner with 69.68% of the vote to Hebner's 30.32% Foley beat Jack Hebner with 69.68% of the vote to Hebner's 30.32%

1986

Foley beat Floyd Wakefield with 74.72% of the vote to Wakefield's 25.28% Foley beat Floyd Wakefield with 74.72% of the vote to Wakefield's 25.28%

1987

Elected House majority leader.

1988

Foley beat Marlyn Derby with 73.39% of the vote to Derby's 23.61% Foley beat Marlyn Derby with 73.39% of the vote to Derby's 23.61%

1989

June 6: Foley is elected Speaker of the House after Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, resigns under pressure during a House Ethics Committee investigation.

May 22: The House passes the Americans with Disabilities Act with a unanimous voice vote.

Oct. 16: The House passes an Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act which raises taxes. A month later, President George H.W. Bush would sign the act into law, breaking his “read my lips” campaign pledge.

1990

Foley beat Marlyn Derby again, with 68.81% of the vote to Derby's 31.19% Foley beat Marlyn Derby again, with 68.81% of the vote to Derby's 31.19%

1992

Washington state voters pass Initiative 573, restricting its congressional delegation to three terms in office and senators to two terms.

Foley beat John Sonneland again, with 55.18% of the vote to Sonneland's 44.82% Foley beat John Sonneland again, with 55.18% of the vote to Sonneland's 44.82%

1993

Feb 3: The House passes the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Nov. 17: The House passes the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Nov. 10: The House passes the Brady Handgun Act.

1994

Foley joins a lawsuit against the state of Washington for the congressional term limits voters imposed. Republican George Nethercutt runs against Foley, promising to serve only three terms in the House. On Election Day, six of Washington’s eight House Democrats, including Foley, lose to Republicans. Foley becomes the first incumbent Speaker of the House to be defeated since 1862.

Foley is beaten by George Nethercutt, with 49.08% of the vote to Nethercutt's 50.92% Foley is beaten by George Nethercutt, with 49.08% of the vote to Nethercutt's 50.92%

1995

May 22: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states cannot impose qualifications for candidates for Congress more strict than those specified in the Constitution. Washington’s term limits are struck down.

September: Foley becomes head of the Federal City Council of Washington, D.C.

1997

Foley is appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan by President Bill Clinton. He’ll serve in that position through the end of the Clinton administration.

2000

Nethercutt runs for a fourth term in the House, breaking the promise he made in the 1994 election. He’ll eventually serve five terms.

2001

The federal courthouse in downtown Spokane is named after Foley.

Foley in 2001 in front of the courthouse

2013

Foley dies in his Washington, D.C., home after a series of strokes. He was 84.

Sources: HistoryLink.org, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Spokesman-Review files, Politico, Slate, C-SPAN, OurCampaigns.com, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress