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An Appreciation of Alan Dixon

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Dixon’s political career ended in the 1992 Democratic primary, the so-called St. Patrick’s Day Massacre. Carol Moseley Braun edged Dixon and a third candidate, Al Hofeld.

Hofeld provides an interesting footnote and connection to contemporary politics. Dixon had earlier denied noted political consultant David Axelrod’s offer to help with the re-election campaign, leaving the former Chicago Tribune political columnist to take his considerable talents to Hofeld, where he put together ruthless and effective attack ads that cut deeply into Dixon’s support. Axelrod would later serve both Clinton and Barack Obama.

Dixon went on to practice law in St. Louis, across the Mississippi River from his childhood home. His memoir, “The Gentleman From Illinois: Stories From Forty Years of Elective Public Service” came out last year, and he did one last go-round to publicize the book, including a stop at the Monocole. In one of his last public statements, he said his goal was to make it three more months to the age of 87. He came up one day short.

The Senate is a more rancorous place than it was during his time. Last fall, after Dixon’s book came out, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., told the Washington Post what we all know: “The Senate that Alan Dixon served in was a much more collegial institution.”

Hoyer came to Congress shortly after Dixon was first elected to the Senate. One of Hoyer’s first campaign workers was Cheri Callahan, who is now the gentlelady from Illinois’ 17th District. It was a good political start for both.

Peter Feltman is a senior analyst for CQ Roll Call’s Regulatory and Legal Products.

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