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Thomas H. Kuchel: A Featured Biography


Thomas H. Kuchel

California Republican Thomas H. Kuchel often played a key role in enacting legislation with far-reaching implications. Appointed to the Senate in 1953, Kuchel won a special election in 1954 and served 16 years. In 1959 he became Republican whip. The liberal Kuchel supported Medicare, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Interstate Highway Act, and was instrumental in establishing the Redwood National Park. As Republican whip, he served as co-floor manager for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, working alongside Democratic whip Hubert Humphrey to enact that landmark bill. As the conservative movement grew in the 1960s, Kuchel became distanced from the Republican Party. He was defeated in the 1968 Republican primary by conservative educator Max Rafferty, who lost the election to Democrat Alan Cranston. “Some of the votes I have cast I know have been very costly to me politically,” Kuchel said in his 1968 farewell address to the Senate. “I think it is . . . vital that the Senate of the United States lead public opinion instead of following it.”