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Kent Conrad

Kent Conrad
United States Senator
from North Dakota
In office
January 3, 1987 – December 14, 1992
Preceded by Mark Andrews
Succeeded by Byron Dorgan
In office
December 14, 1992 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Jocelyn Burdick
Succeeded by Heidi Heitkamp
Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
In office
January 4, 2007 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Judd Gregg
Succeeded by Patty Murray
In office
June 6, 2001 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Pete Domenici
Succeeded by Don Nickles
In office
January 3 – 20, 2001
Preceded by Pete Domenici
Succeeded by Pete Domenici
Tax Commissioner of North Dakota
In office
January 6, 1981 – December 2, 1986
Governor Allen Olson
George Sinner
Preceded by Byron Dorgan
Succeeded by Heidi Heitkamp
Personal details
Born (1948-03-12) March 12, 1948
Bismarck, North Dakota, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Pam Schafer (Divorced)
Lucy Calautti (1987–present)
Children Jessamyn
Alma mater Stanford University
George Washington University
Religion Unitarian Universalism[1]

Gaylord Kent Conrad[2] (born March 12, 1948) is a former United States Senator from North Dakota. He is a member of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, the North Dakota affiliate of the Democratic Party. First elected to the Senate in 1986, he served as chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee for twelve years.

On January 18, 2011, Conrad announced that he would not run for re-election in 2012, but will instead retire.[3] Conrad said in a statement that it was more important that "I spend my time and energy trying to focus on solving the nation's budget woes than be distracted by another campaign."[3] Fellow Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was elected to replace him.


  • Early life 1
  • Early political career 2
  • U.S. Senate career 3
    • Committee assignments 3.1
    • Political positions 3.2
      • Health care 3.2.1
      • Social policies 3.2.2
      • Fiscal policies 3.2.3
      • Iraq war 3.2.4
    • Countrywide Financial loan scandal 3.3
  • Electoral history 4
    • Overview 4.1
    • 1986 4.2
    • 1992 4.3
    • 1994 4.4
    • 2000 4.5
    • 2006 4.6
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Conrad was born in The George Washington University.

Conrad has been married twice. His first wife, Pam, is the sister of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer.[6][7] They had one daughter, Jessamyn. On Valentine's Day 1987, Conrad married Lucy Calautti, his 1986 Senate campaign manager who is currently a lobbyist for Major League Baseball.[8]

Early political career

After graduating from Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

  • Committee on the Budget (Chairman)
  • Committee on Finance
  • Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Joint Committee on Taxation
  • Political positions

    In April 2006, he was selected by Time as one of "America's 10 Best Senators". That same year, he was commended by The American for his knowledge of economic issues. Conrad endorsed Senator Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Race. Conrad was also a leading member of the "Gang of 10", a conservative group which pushed for much greater offshore drilling in sensitive environmental areas. He was also well known for using charts as visual aids when speaking in the Senate, which earned him the nickname "Godfather of Charts".[9]

    Health care

    In the 2009 negotiations over reforming America's healthcare system, Conrad strongly opposed any "public option". The AFL-CIO announced they will fund a primary challenge against Conrad in 2012 if he continues to oppose a "public option".

    On September 29, 2009, Senator Conrad voted with Senate Finance Committee Republicans against an amendment to a health care bill that would have provided for a public insurance option. He was supportive of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.[10]

    Social policies

    Conrad is more politically conservative than most Democrats. He has voted consistently in favor of banning the so-called "partial-birth" abortion medical procedure. He also opposes public funding of abortion. However, Conrad voted in favor of lifting the ban on military base abortions.[11] Conrad also has a mixed record on gay rights. While he personally is opposed to gay marriage, he voted against a proposed constitutional ban on the matter and has supported bills that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. On January 31, 2006, Conrad was one of only four Democrats to vote in favor of confirming Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

    Fiscal policies

    A strong supporter of the Simpson-Bowles plan, Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, announced on April 17, 2012 his plan to offer a version of that deficit-reduction proposal which he, as a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, helped to develop. Lawmakers on the Senate Budget Committee could be forced to vote or modify the plan.[12][13]

    Conrad presents himself as knowledgeable about his analysis of monetary policies and budget issues. He considers himself a "deficit hawk" because of his calls for a balanced federal budget,[14] in spite of his support for farm subsidies. He has voted against Republican proposals to repeal the estate and alternative minimum taxes. He supports lowered middle class taxes, but increasing them for those making over $1 million per year. He supports extending the expiring Bush tax cuts "at least until the economy is clearly recovering."[15]

    Conrad was very vocal in his opposition to the spending policies of the national debt. Conrad is also opposed to most free-trade measures, and is a strong supporter of farming subsidies to family farmers.

    Iraq war

    Conrad voted against approving use of military force in Iraq in 1991 and was one of only 23 senators to vote against the war resolution of 2002. While he initially voted in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act, he has been an opponent of warrantless wiretapping and of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

    Countrywide Financial loan scandal

    In June 2008, it was reported that Senator Conrad had received mortgages on favorable terms for a second home and an apartment building due to his association with Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo R. Mozilo.[16] Conrad acknowledged that he spoke with Angelo Mozilo, the Countrywide CEO, by phone.[17] In an April 23, 2004, email about one of Senator Conrad's loans, Mozilo encouraged an employee to "make an exception due to the fact that the borrower is a senator."[16] Conrad denied any prior knowledge of such treatment and gave away the mortgage discount to charity.[17][18] Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Conrad. In August 2009, after a year-long inquiry, the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee exonerated Senator Conrad of any unethical behavior regarding his dealings with Countrywide Mortgage.[19]

    Electoral history


    In the 1986 election, Conrad defeated the Republican incumbent, Mark Andrews, by 2,120 votes. Andrews had represented North Dakota at the federal level since 1963 (he had previously served in the House before moving to the Senate in 1981).

    During the campaign, Conrad pledged that he would not run for re-election if the federal budget deficit had not fallen by the end of his term. By 1992 it became obvious that this would not be the case, and although polls showed that the electorate would have welcomed him going back on his pledge, Conrad considered his promise binding and did not run for re-election. Dorgan won the Democratic primary election.

    Conrad received an opportunity to remain in the Senate when the other North Dakota senator, long-serving Dem-NPLer Quentin Burdick, died on September 8, 1992. Burdick's widow, Jocelyn Birch Burdick, was appointed to that seat temporarily, but a special election was needed to fill the rest of the term. Viewing this opportunity as different from "running for re-election", Conrad ran for and won the Democratic-NPL's nomination. He went on to win the special election, and was sworn-in December 14, 1992, resigning his original Senate seat the same day. (Conrad's original Senate seat was then filled by Dorgan, via appointment by the governor on December 15, 1992 to fill the seat for the brief interim until he would have been sworn in under normal circumstances.)

    Despite North Dakota's Republican leanings, Conrad was comfortably re-elected in 1994 -— a year when Republicans swept up most of the Congressional seats that were not in heavily Democratic-leaning parts of the U.S.






    • Kent Conrad (D) (inc.) 68.8%
    • Dwight Grotberg (R) 29.5%
    • Roland Riemers (I) 1%
    • James Germalic (I) 0.6%


    1. ^ Kent Conrad on the issues
    2. ^
    3. ^ a b Sen. Conrad (D-N.D.) Won't Run in 2012
    4. ^
    5. ^
    6. ^ Meet the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture
    7. ^ Bush nominates former North Dakota governor as Agriculture secretary (10/31/07) -
    8. ^
    9. ^ Here’s what happens when you move into Kent Conrad’s Senate office
    10. ^ Senate faces abortion rights rift
    11. ^ Kent Conrad on Abortion
    12. ^ Damian Paletta, Conrad’s Budget Surprise: Simpson-Bowles, Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2012
    13. ^ Ezra Klein, Can Simpson-Bowles really pass the Senate?, The Washington Post, April 18, 2012
    14. ^
    15. ^ Divisions among Dems over tax cuts for affluent
    16. ^ a b
    17. ^ a b
    18. ^
    19. ^

    External links

    Political offices
    Preceded by
    Byron Dorgan
    Tax Commissioner of North Dakota
    Succeeded by
    Heidi Heitkamp
    Party political offices
    Preceded by
    Kent Johanneson
    Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Dakota
    (Class 3)

    Succeeded by
    Byron Dorgan
    Preceded by
    Quentin Burdick
    Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from North Dakota
    (Class 1)

    1992, 1994, 2000, 2006
    Succeeded by
    Heidi Heitkamp
    United States Senate
    Preceded by
    Mark Andrews
    U.S. Senator (Class 3) from North Dakota
    Served alongside: Quentin and Jocelyn Burdick
    Succeeded by
    Byron Dorgan
    Preceded by
    Jocelyn Burdick
    U.S. Senator (Class 1) from North Dakota
    Served alongside: John Hoeven
    Succeeded by
    Heidi Heitkamp
    Preceded by
    Pete Domenici
    Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
    Succeeded by
    Pete Domenici
    Preceded by
    Pete Domenici
    Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
    Succeeded by
    Don Nickles
    Preceded by
    Judd Gregg
    Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget
    Succeeded by
    Patty Murray
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