Former Legislators Begin Stay at K-School

Defeated Congressional Democrats Headline List of Spring IOP Fellows

If they had won, maybe Disneyland. But for several defeated Congressional Democrats, a colder destination awaits: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So far, at least three former Democratic legislators have chosen to move to the Kennedy School of Government, headlining the list of this spring's Institute of Politics Fellows.

Tennessee Democrat Jim Sasser was a candidate for the Senate floor leadership, before his November defeat at the hands of surgeon and hospital owner Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Now, he will be leading a study session to discuss the future of the Democratic party.

Sasser offers a sharp critique of his compatriots in the executive branch. His loss, he said, was due in part to the "unacceptability of many of the [Clinton] administration's policies" that led to the "wholesale desertion of the Democratic Party by white males in the South."

Sasser said he was glad to escape Washington life. The former senator, along with his party, needs to be "restructured both spiritually and intellectually," he said.

"You have to look at the Democratic defeat in context," Sasser said. "The Democratic party has more to offer, but we're poor at articulation."

Former U.S. Rep. Karen Shepherd (D-Utah) said her time in Cambridge will allow her to make sense of her Washington experience.

"There is no time to live [in Washington], not even to go to the grocery store to buy milk," Shepherd says.

Other former Democratic leaders now serving as IOP Fellows include former U.S. Rep. Jill Long (D-Ind.) and former Washington D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.

Perhaps less well-known are the two Republicans also serving as fellows--John Schall, a former Congressional candidate and Labor Department official and Chris Henick, executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

Schall's study group will examine House Speaker Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." Schall said he will be tracking the progress of legislative changes during the Republican Congress's first 100 days.

Like most of the fellows, Schall does not currently hold an elective office. He said he views his time in Cambridge as "an opportunity to pause andreflect" on both life and politics.

Some fellows use the Kennedy school as arevolving door between Boston and Washington, saidDavid V. Bonfili '96, head of the IOP's StudyGroup Committee. "Some people use it as aspringboard, like Republican pollster Frank Luntz,while others are at the end of their careers," hesaid.

But Bonfili said it is not unusual to havefellows at the school who are simultaneouslyinvolved in political life. Kate Michelman,president of NARAL and Victor Navasky, formereditor of the Nation, both spent time therewhile leading their organizations.

For most of the new fellows, however, the IOPwill be an opportunity to escape political life,if only temporarily. "History is always hard tounderstand when you're living through it,"Shepherd said. "I was living through it for twoyears.