Mark O. Hatfield, whose 35 years as Oregon's U.S. senator illuminated his conviction that Republicans could be God-fearing conservatives and also passionate advocates for ending wars and racial discrimination, has died. He was 89.
Hatfield died Sunday in Portland, Ore., his former scheduler and assistant Brenda Hart said. He had been in declining health.
Hatfield, the bedrock of Oregon's once-robust tradition of moderate Republicanism, was a devout evangelical Christian who opposed prayer in the public schools and for years managed to negotiate common ground among the contentious environmentalists, loggers, anti-abortion activists, death penalty opponents, business owners, farmers and antiwar protesters who were his constituents in a state famous for its rollicking political diversity.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations during two terms, Hatfield infuriated his party's leadership by opposing the wars in Vietnam and Iraq and cast the deciding vote in 1986 against a proposed balanced budget amendment, while championing such typically "liberal" issues as handgun control and family medical leave. In the midst of the shrink-government era of Ronald Reagan, Hatfield said he saw his appropriations chairmanship as a golden opportunity for "sending dollars to social programs in desperate need."
He angered conservationists by insisting on timber harvests from the state's storied old-growth forests but crowned his legislative career in 1996 by preserving as wilderness the majestic 500-year-old Douglas fir and hemlock trees of Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest as a sanctuary for nature lovers and the threatened northern spotted owl.