Wyche Fowler’s Plan to Improve DC Dining—It Involved Tanks and Guns

By Jack Limpert

Two U.S. Senators will be elected in January 5th runoff elections in Georgia—crucial votes since Republicans already will have 50 seats in the next Senate and need one more for control. If Democrats win both runoffs, the Senate would effectively be 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any ties.

The New York Times has a good story by Carl Hulse headlined “Democrats Work to Defy History in Georgia Runoffs That Have Favored G.O.P.” The opening grafs:

WASHINGTON — A first-term senator in Georgia narrowly bested his opponent, outrunning his party’s standard-bearer only to face voters again a few weeks later under a quirky system that briefly made the state the center of the political universe after a hard-fought presidential election.

The year was 1992, and Senator Wyche Fowler Jr., a Democrat, had amassed more votes than his Republican opponent on Election Day. But he lost his seat three weeks later.

“Yes, I was disappointed, running six points ahead of the president and being the only state in the country that had this kind of crazy system,” said Mr. Fowler, now 80, looking back on a storied runoff election 28 years ago after Bill Clinton won the presidency.

Now that same “crazy system” that overturned Mr. Fowler’s lead, defeating a popular member of Congress known for his folksy stories, has once again seized the attention of both parties. . . .
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Wyche was elected to the Senate in 1986, defeated in 1992, and during that time one of our Washingtonian writers was from Georgia, knew Wyche well, and we had some long lunches. They were long because Wyche was one of the most entertaining politicians ever to come to the nation’s capital.

In the 1980s the Washington dining scene had begun to improve as more ethnic restaurants opened—Vietnamese, Thai, Ethiopian. Over lunch Wyche explained that as revolutions and turmoil had hit Asian and African nations, former government officials from those countries fled to Washington and, needing to make a living, some opened restaurants. He said his foreign policy was based on a vision of Soviet tanks rolling into Paris and all the French chefs fleeing to Washington to open more great restaurants.

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