Tom Luken at 80
Thomas A. Luken -- the former councilman, mayor, congressman, councilman again and now semi-retired lawyer -- was born on this day in 1925.
His public service career spans five decades, from
The Cincinnati Enquirer has written his political obituary many times, only to have Luken add another chapter to his career. So what's new to say? Here are 10 things you never knew -- or maybe forgot -- about Tom Luken:
- According to Trivial Pursuit's
edition, he was the first Democratic mayor in the history of the city. (Not true, but that doesn't stop him from telling people he was. Luken was actually the first Democrat since Henry Thomas Hunt in 1913, in the pre-charter era.) Cincinnati
- Mark Shields, now a television pundit, managed his second 1974 congressional campaign after Luken won a March special election to replace William Keating. In the general election, Luken was one of only three Democratic incumbents to lose his seat in a post-Watergate tide that swept dozens of Democrats into Congress.
- He admits to "voting the district" earlier on in his congressional career to get re-elected, but said his more liberal nature came out as he became more entrenched in the seat.
- During the height of the congressional sex scandal involving Middletown Congressman Donald E. "Buzz" Lukens in 1989, CNN accidentally put Tom Luken's photo on the screen.
- In a district that Republican presidents won by 60 percent or more, Luken routinely beat a who's who of big-name Republicans: Mayor Donald D. Clancy, Ohio Senate President Stanley J. Aronoff, WLWT anchor Thearon "Tom" Adkins, Hamilton County Recorder John E. "Jake" Held, former Hamilton County Commissioner Norman A. Murdock, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Fred E. Morr, and the current officeholder, Steve Chabot.
- Luken turned around to support Chabot in 1998, leading a "Democrats for Chabot" campaign. The group was ostensibly motivated by Chabot's anti-abortion views, but Luken made no secret of his dislike for Democrat Roxanne Qualls, who beat him out for mayor in 1993.
- He had a reputation -- on Capitol Hill and City Hall -- as one of the most difficult bosses in politics. A 1988 Washingtonian Magazine poll of congressional staffers named him the worst boss in Congress, though again he might have been confused with "Buzz" Lukens. In his 1992 tell-all Hill Rat: Blowing the Lid Off Congress, former Luken staffer John Jackley described him as having "a minotaur's bellow fused onto a legendary temper." And any staffer who worked for him more than a week had measured out the exact length of the phone cord and learned to stand beyond it. "He will deny all of them, but some of those Tom Luken stories are legendary," said his son, Mayor Charlie Luken.
- Despite that, Charlie said, his dad isn't so tough. "He would not want me to say this about him, but he's a softie in many ways. He tutors an inner-city kid in the West End. He's a rough-and-tumble politician, but he's got a soft spot."
- A lifetime opponent of the death penalty, he still makes occasional trips to Lucasville to protest. (As a news reporter at WLWT, Charlie once covered an execution and was surprised to see his dad there by the bonfire, leading the protest songs.)
- Though Charlie is his most famous child, Tom and his wife Shirley want people to know they have eight children: Mary, Charlie, Annie, Timothy, Peggy,
, Marty and Matthew. Annie is a prominent Columbus Republican; Peggy works for Elizabeth in the Office of Budget and Evaluation. Word has it that they and about 40 other Lukens will gather at Cincinnati this weekend for the big bash. Deer Creek State Park