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Larry Pressler for D.C. Mayor?

Headline from June 11, 1998. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)
Headline from June 11, 1998. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

If Larry Pressler doesn’t win a Senate seat in November, he might think about running for D.C. mayor. It wouldn’t be the first time.  

The independent candidate and former Republican senator shaking up the South Dakota Senate race contemplated running for D.C. mayor in 1998, after he lost his re-election bid in 1996 and was working as a lobbyist.  

The Daily Kos unearthed an Associated Press report Monday on Pressler’s potential mayoral bid, which cited an interview with Roll Call. So we dug through our archives and found the original interview that splashed the June 11, 1998, front page with the headline: “Pressler Plans Run for Mayor.” At the time Pressler was thinking about challenging current mayoral candidate and then-Councilmember Carol Schwartz for the GOP nomination.  

Though Pressler’s D.C. residence has raised questions on the campaign trail in 2014, he considered it an asset in 1998.  

“I have lived in D.C. since 1971, longer than anyone running,” he told Roll Call’s Francesca Contiguglia.  

Pressler was asked about the likelihood of being elected by a black-majority city, considering he hailed from a state with a 1 percent black population.  

His response? Pressler noted he attended the March on Washington and had an honorary doctorate from a black-majority school. “I have a lot of African-American friends,” he added.  

Pressler also laid out a three-point plan for D.C. He said he would institute a school voucher program, a “zero tolerance” crime program and tax cuts for D.C. residents. He said the financial plan would make D.C. “a Hong Kong on the Potomac.”  

A few days later, Roll Call asked some of Pressler’s former Senate colleagues about his plans to run for mayor.  

Current Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said he was shocked when he saw the news in the paper. “I thought it was an April Fool’s issue,” he said. “I hope he’s not seriously considering it.”  

“Holy cow! That’s my reaction. Holy Cow! That says it all,” said former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. “That’s self-explanatory. Holy cow, exclamation point.”  

Former Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, was on board. “Absolutely, he would be a good candidate. He knows D.C., and he knows Congress,” she said. “Maybe he’d be a bridge between Congress and D.C.”  

A week after the news broke that he was contemplating a run, Pressler said he would not seek the GOP nomination for D.C. mayor.  

“I have concluded I can do more in the private sector working through a foundation,” he said. Pressler also cited several conferences he planned to attend that were in the middle of the primary. He noted, “There’s a limit to how much you can take on.”  

So Pressler continued his work as a lobbyist. That November, Democrat Anthony Williams won the mayoral race against Schwartz.  

Fast forward 16 years and Pressler is running for office once again, this time as an independent. He faces Republican Mike Rounds and Democrat Rick Weiland in November. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the race Leans Republican.
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