Steve Symms

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Steven Douglas "Steve" Symms

In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Frank Church
Succeeded by Dirk Kempthorne

United States Representative for Idaho's 1st Congressional District
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by James A. McClure
Succeeded by Larry Craig

Born April 23, 1938
Nampa, Canyon County, Idaho
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Frances Eugenia Stockdale Symms
(married 1959–1990, separated in 1987, divorced)

(2) Loretta E. Mathes Fuller Symms (married 1992)[1][2]

Children Four children from first marriage
Residence Caldwell, Idaho
Alma mater University of Idaho at Moscow
Occupation Agricultural lobbyist
Religion United Methodist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1960–1963
Rank First Lieutenant
Battles/wars Cold War

Steven Douglas Symms (born April 23, 1938), known as Steve Symms, is a conservative Republican former United States Senator and United States Representative for his native state of Idaho. He served four terms in the House from the 1st congressional district and then in the 1980 Senate election narrowly unseated incumbent Democrat Frank Church, a nationally known defender of civil liberties.

Symms took conservative stances on significant issues.[3] A resident of suburban Leesburg, Virginia, Symms is a partner at Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.[4]


Symms was born in Nampa, the largest city in Canyon County, Idaho. He graduated in 1956 from Caldwell High School in Caldwell, the county seat located like Nampa within the metropolitan district of the capital city of Boise. He then studied horticulture at the University of Idaho in Moscow, at which he played football with the Idaho Vandals.[5] In 1960, he received a Bachelor of Science degree and then served from 1960 to 1963 in the United States Marine Corps during the Cold War. He then worked as a private pilot and grew apples on his farm. From 1969 to 1972, he edited The Idaho Compass, a newspaper apparently no longer in publication.

In August 1959, Symms married his college sweetheart, Frances Eugenia "Fran" Stockdale of Helena, Montana.[6]They had a son and three daughters. Following his re-election in 1986, the couple separated,and were divorced in 1990. Symms in 1992 married the former Loretta Mathes Fuller, a former aide and later the U.S. Senate deputy sergeant at arms. The first Mrs. Symms resides in Boise.

Symms is a cousin of Oregon's Republican former U.S. Representative Dennis Alan "Denny" Smith, who is three months Symms' senior.


In 1972, along with the reelection of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, Symms, at the age of thirty-four used the theme of an apple farm in his successful bid for an open seat in the U.S. House. One of his advertisements showed a large red apple and the slogan, "Take a bite out of big government!" He was elected to the open seat and was re-elected three times before becoming a U.S. Senator. In 1980, with the Ronald Reagan triumph over Jimmy Carter, Symms unseated four-term Senator Frank Church with a victory margin of less than 1 percent in the Republican landslide year.[7] Symms was re-elected in the 1986 midterms, defeating Democratic Governor John V. Evans in another hard-fought and close election.[8]

In 1983, Symms joined most Senate Republicans in voting for the Hatch-Eagleton Human Life Amendment.[9] The constitutional amendment received a 49–50 vote, thus failing to meet the two-thirds threshold.

Symms chose did not seek a third Senate term in 1992 and was succeeded by the Republican mayor of Boise, Dirk Kempthorne, a future two-term Idaho governor and United States Secretary of the Interior. Symms is the recipient of the U.S. Marine Corps "Iron Mike" award and the National Guard's "Minuteman of the Year" award. He has also been honored by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business,Freedoms Foundation, the American Security Council, Americans for Constitutional Action.[4]


Symms was one of several Republican senators who in 1981 expressed his opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor, an Arizona Moderate Republican whom President Reagan nominated for the United States Supreme Court. The opposition hinged over the issue of O'Connor's unwillingness to overturn the landmark abortion opinion, Roe v. Wade.[10] Reagan, however, stubbornly stood with O'Connor, the first woman justice who later affirmed Roe in the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, much as most conservatives had expected.

During the 1988 presidential election, Symms falsely alleged that Kitty Dukakis, the wife of Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, burned a U.S. flag in a 1960s demonstration against the Vietnam War. Mrs. Dukakis angrily blasted the accusation as "totally false and beneath contempt," and Symms later admitted that he could not substantiate his allegation.[11] Nevertheless, the claim became national news, as media outlets began searching for the photograph Symms said he had "heard" existed.[12] Dukakis lost the election to Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Later years

After leaving the Senate in 1993, Symms founded a consulting firm, Symms, Lehn Associates, Inc. In January 1999, he and John Haddow formed Symms & Haddow Associates, a lobbying firm. In January 2001, the firm joined forces with Romano Romani and Democratic former Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona to establish Parry, Romani, DeConcini, and Symms.[4]


  1. Symms wants to divorce estranged wife. The Idahonian (December 6, 1989).
  2. Anita Dennis (June 13, 1991). Fran Symms picks up pieces after divorce. Twin Falls Tribune.
  3. Idaho teachers attack Symms' voting record. The Spokane Chronicle (October 14, 1986). Retrieved on December 17, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hon. Steve Symms. Retrieved on December 17, 2021.
  5. Football. Gem of the Mountains (University of Idaho yearbook) (1960). Retrieved on December 17, 2021.
  6. Seniors. Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook (1959).
  7. "Symms basks in the glow of hard-won Senate victory", November 6, 1980, p. 6A. 
  8. Quane Kenyon (October 28, 1986). No political truce in Idaho. Spokane Chronicle.
  10. Jan Crawford Greenburg, Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court, Penguin Books, 2007. p. 222.
  11. AP Editors (August 26, 1988). "Story on Mrs. Dukakis Is Denied by Campaign." The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  12. E. J. Dionne, Jr. (August 29, 1988). "Political Memo; Accentuating the Positive Can Lead to Nasty Campaign." The New York Times. Archived version available here. Retrieved December 17, 2021.

External links