Saturday, August 12, 2006

John G. Schmitz

John G. Schmitz was born on this day in 1930 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A Republican congressman representing a portion of conservative Orange County, California and a long-time member of the John Birch Society, Schmitz was chosen in 1972 as the presidential nominee of the American Independent Party, temporarily reunifying factions of the organization which sponsored George Wallace's presidential candidacy in 1968. Wallace, however, was a nationally-known figure with a populist flavor to his rhetoric; Schmitz, while having a caustic sense of humor, was not well known. In the absence of a strong Southern candidate, incumbent President Nixon was able to run a "Southern strategy" aimed at bringing conservative Southerners into the Republican column, with the result that while Wallace polled nearly 10 million votes in 1968, Schmitz and his running mate Tom Anderson garnered only 1,107,083 votes in 1972.

Schmitz was later elected to the California state legislature as a Republican. With his state senate seat disappearing due to redistricting at the end of 1982, Schmitz pursued the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California, but lost in large part due to the controversy surrounding his characterization of legislative hearing witnesses testifying against abortion restrictions as "bull dykes" with "hard Jewish and arguably female faces."

Shortly after the primary, the fate of his political future was sealed when it was revealed that he had fathered 2 children in an extramarital affair with one of his political science students, the affair having come to light when the woman was accused of child abuse. The abuse charges were dropped, but Schmitz admitted to the affair and thereafter lost credibility with conservatives.

One of Schmitz’s daughters by his wife, Mary Kay Letourneau, was convicted of statutory rape in a highly publicized trial in 1997, for her involvement with her 13-year old student -- with whom she had 2 children while he was under-age, and whom she has subsequently married.

Schmitz died on January 10, 2001 in Bethesda, Maryland.

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