Retired Senator (R) and U.S. congressman (D) lament loss of consensus in politics

Jan 16, 2018


Kika de la Garza serving on Ag Committee in Congress
Credit Jose R. Lopez New York Times

Watching congressmen and senators stubbornly refuse to engage in cross-aisle politics reminded me of conversations with retired Republican Senator Ben Knighthorse Campbell, and retired Democratic Congressman Kika de la Garza back in 2013.

Both touted their numerous friendships and partnerships with representatives from the opposite side of the isle.   

U.S. Senator Ben Knighthorse Campbell, visits with President George Bush Jr.


Ben Knighthorse Campbell’s political career commenced when he was elected to the Colorado State Legislature as a Democrat in 1982.

Following two terms in the state house, Campbell was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served from 1987 to 1993.

Campbell was also the first Native American elected to the U.S. Senate in more than 60 years, serving from 1993 to 2005.

Ben Knighthorse Campbell’s tenure as both a congressman and senator were etched with an unflagging advocacy for Native American causes and a strong belief in cultural self-determination.

Some of his noted accomplishments include establishment of tribal operated schools, a law requiring museums and the Federal Government to return all human remains and sacred objects taken from tribes without their consent, and passage of the religious freedom Restoration Act that guaranteed the right of Native Americans to practice their traditional religion without state interference.

Kika de la Garza (September 22, 1927 – March 13, 2017) served for 14 years as a Texas State Representative followed by 32 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. When he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives he was the sole Hispanic member.

Following six consecutive terms in Austin, de la Garza was elected as a democrat to the US House of representatives from the 15th District. Kika de la Garza’s congressional career spanned 32 years, from 1965 through 1997 serving the 89th through the 104th congressional sessions.

In 1976 del La Garza became a founding member of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus where he served as chairman from 1989 to 1991.  He became the first Hispanic since 1917 to chair a standing committee in the House when he was elected chairman of the committee on Agriculture—serving from 1981 to 1994.

Close to home in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, de la Garza was instrumental in securing federal funding for the Valley’s wildlife refuges that have become world-renowned destinations naturalists and avid bird watchers.  

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