Fmr Rep. Nethercutt: Remembering the Gentleman Giant-Killer

When the first Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in 40 years took office in January 1995, the most-recognized and sought-after of the 72 GOP freshmen was, of course, Sonny Bono. The new congressman from California had been a widely known singer and entertainer for decades.

After Bono, the freshman Republicans who reporters were most eager to interview were the three “giant-killers” — political newcomers who, in seeking office for the first time, had toppled Democratic giants in the House: Michael Patrick Flanagan of Illinois, who unseated House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dan Rostenkowski; Steve Stockman of Texas, elected over House Judiciary Committee Chair Jack Brooks; and Washington state’s George Nethercutt, who had defeated House Speaker Tom Foley, who had been in Congress for 30 years.

When Nethercutt died Friday at age 79, he was eulogized primarily as that: the man who unseated the sitting speaker of the House for the first time since 1862. But he was also widely remembered as a genuinely “nice guy” who always greeted friend and foe with a smile.

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