Remembering my friend and colleague, former Congressman George Gekas (R-PA), who died last week at age 91.
George represented his district from 1983 to 2003. George was one of our 13 House Managers (prosecutors) in the impeachment trial of President Clinton. In that capacity I came to know him well. We worked closely together and I respected him greatly. He was a selfless leader who loved his country and his constituents.
After the Democrat-controlled legislature redistricted him into a Republican-minority district, he lost his reelection in 2002. George felt devastated by the rejection. He didn't show up at his office to pack his things; he failed to return after the election to cast votes in the lame duck congressional session, and he wouldn't return phone calls. When I learned of his severe depression, I called him daily for weeks. Finally, I got him on the line. He told me he felt ashamed to have been turned out of office after 20 years of faithful service, and because of that he didn't want to face anybody at the Capitol. . His voice cracked with emotion as he explained his sorrow. I knew I had to try and cheer him up.
"Listen, George," I told him, "you won ten consecutive elections because your district knew and loved you. You had a connection to your voters, and it's because they knew you that they wanted you to be their voice in Washington. The only way the Democrats could beat you was to push you into a district where people didn't know you. If that were not the case, you'd be back in Washington for another term. Now take my case: I was my constituents' deputy county prosecutor, municipal court judge, state legislator, and congressman for almost seventeen years. When my heavily Dem district voted me out of office two years ago, it's because they knew me--and they were mad at me for impeaching Clinton. They booted me from office for doing what they disliked. The Democrats didn't need to redistrict me to beat me--but that was the only way they could beat you. They had to move you to an area where people didn't know you. That's a big difference."
George brightened. "You know," he told me, "you're right! I hadn't thought about it that way. Thanks so much, Jim--I feel so much better now!"
"You're welcome, George," I told him. "I'm glad I was able to help. I just have one question for you."
"What's that?" he asked.
I replied: "How come all of the sudden I feel like shit?"
Rest in peace, old friend.
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