Steven Douglas Symms (born April 23, 1938) is a former Republican politician from the U.S. state of Idaho. He served as a four-term congressman (1973–81) and two-term U.S. Senator (1981–93). He took conservative stances on significant issues. He is currently a partner at Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
Life and career
Symms attended public schools in Canyon County and graduated from Caldwell High School in 1956. He studied horticulture at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a reserve center on the football team and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He graduated in 1960 with a B.S. in agriculture, then served in the U.S. Marines for three years, after which he worked as a private pilot and apple farmer. From 1969–72, he was editor of the newspaper, the Idaho Compass.
In 1972, Symms ran for Congress with a theme tied to his apple farm. He featured a drawing of a big red apple and the slogan, "Take a bite out of big government!" He was elected to the open seat in the U.S. House at age 34 and was re-elected three times, then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1980. Aided by political action committees, he unseated four-term incumbent Democrat Frank Church, winning by less than one percent in the Republican landslide. Symms was re-elected in 1986, defeating Democratic Governor John V. Evans in another hard-fought and close election.
|1972||Ed Williams||68,106||44%||Steve Symms||85,270||56%|
|1974||J. Ray Cox||54,001||42%||Steve Symms (inc.)||75,404||58%|
|1976||Ken Pursley||79,662||45%||Steve Symms (inc.)||95,833||55%|
|1978||Roy Truby||57,972||40%||Steve Symms (inc.)||86,680||60%|
|1980||Frank Church (inc.)||214,439||49%||Steve Symms||218,701||50%||Larry Fullmer||Libertarian||6,507||1%|
|1986||John V. Evans||185,066||48%||Steve Symms (inc.)||196,958||52%|
After leaving the U.S. Senate in 1993, Symms founded Symms, Lehn Associates, Inc., a consulting firm. In January 1999, he partnered with John Haddow and formed Symms & Haddow Associates, a lobbying firm. In January 2001, the firm joined forces with Romano Romani and former Senator Dennis DeConcini of Parry, Romani & DeConcini to form Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms.
Prior to his senior year at Idaho, Symms married college sweetheart Frances E. "Fran" Stockdale of Helena, Montana, in August 1959. They had four children: a son and three daughters. Following his re-election in 1986, the couple separated amidst rumors of infidelity, and their divorce was finalized in 1990. Although Symms declined to comment on the reason for the divorce, he was dogged by rumors of infidelity during his 1980s campaigns, claims which were eventually substantiated by his former wife. Symms married Loretta Mathes Fuller in 1992, a former aide and later the Deputy Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate.
Symms was one of several Republican senators who in 1981 called into the White House to express his discontent over the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court; the opposition hinged over the issue of O'Connor's presumed unwillingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.
During the 1988 U.S. presidential election, Symms claimed in a radio interview that a photograph existed from the 1960s showing Kitty Dukakis, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, burning an American flag to protest the Vietnam War. Kitty Dukakis angrily denied the accusation as "totally false and beneath contempt," and Symms later admitted that he could not substantiate it. Nevertheless, the claim became national news, as media outlets began searching for the photograph Symms said he had "heard" about. The flag-burning story was one of several false rumors about Dukakis that circulated during the 1988 campaign. "Mr. Symms's comment was the third time in a few days that prominent Republicans have publicly aired allegations that the Democrats have swiftly rebutted," the New York Times reported.
Symms was also one of the only six senators who voted against the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.