Steve Symms

Steve Symms
United States Senator
from Idaho
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byFrank Church
Succeeded byDirk Kempthorne
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Idaho's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byJim McClure
Succeeded byLarry Craig
Personal details
Steven Douglas Symms

(1938-04-23) April 23, 1938 (age 81)
Nampa, Idaho, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Loretta E. Mathes Fuller
(b. 1939, m.1992)[1]
Frances E. Stockdale[2] Symms (b. 1937)
(m.1959–90, divorce)[3][4]
Alma materUniversity of Idaho
ProfessionAgriculture, lobbyist
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceSeal of the U.S. Marine Corps.svg U.S. Marine Corps
Years of service1960–1963
RankUS-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant
Battles/warsCold War

Steven Douglas Symms (born April 23, 1938) is an American retired politician who served as a four-term congressman (1973–81) and two-term U.S. Senator (1981–93), represented Idaho.[6] He is currently a partner at Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms, a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.[7]

Life and career[edit]

Symms attended public schools in Canyon County and graduated from Caldwell High School in 1956. He studied horticulture[8] at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a reserve center on the football team[9] and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.[10] He graduated in 1960 with a B.S. in agriculture, then served in the U.S. Marines for three years, after which he worked as a private pilot and apple farmer. From 1969 to 1972, he was co-editor of the college newspaper, The Idaho Compass.[11]


In 1972, Symms ran for Congress, highlighting his career as an apple farmer by using the slogan "Take a bite out of big government!" He was elected to the open seat in the U.S. House at age 34 and was re-elected three times, then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1980. Aided by political action committees,[12][13] he unseated four-term incumbent Democrat Frank Church, winning by less than one percent.[14] Symms was re-elected in 1986, defeating Democratic Governor John V. Evans in another hard-fought and close election.[15]

Symms chose not to seek a third term in 1992 and was succeeded by the Republican mayor of Boise, Dirk Kempthorne, a future two-term Idaho governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

U.S. House elections (Idaho's 1st district): Results 1972–1978
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1972 Ed Williams 68,106 44% Steve Symms 85,270 56%
1974 J. Ray Cox 54,001 42% Steve Symms (inc.) 75,404 58%
1976 Ken Pursley 79,662 45% Steve Symms (inc.) 95,833 55%
1978 Roy Truby 57,972 40% Steve Symms (inc.) 86,680 60%
U.S. Senate elections in Idaho (Class III): Results 1980–1986
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1980 Frank Church (inc.) 214,439 49% Steve Symms 218,701 50% Larry Fullmer Libertarian 6,507 1%
1986 John V. Evans 185,066 48% Steve Symms (inc.) 196,958 52%


After leaving the U.S. Senate in 1993,[16] Symms founded Symms, Lehn Associates, Inc., a consulting firm.[17] In January 1999, he partnered with John Haddow and formed Symms & Haddow Associates, a lobbying firm. In January 2001, the firm joined forces with Romano Romani and former Senator Dennis DeConcini of Parry, Romani & DeConcini to form Parry, Romani, DeConcini & Symms.[7]


Prior to his senior year at Idaho, Symms married college sweetheart Frances E. "Fran" Stockdale of Helena, Montana,[18] in August 1959.[2] They had four children: a son and three daughters. Following his re-election in 1986, the couple separated amidst rumors of infidelity,[5][19] and their divorce was finalized in 1990.[4] Although Symms declined to comment on the reason for the divorce,[20] he was dogged by rumors of infidelity during his 1980s campaigns, claims which were eventually substantiated by his former wife.[21][22] Symms married Loretta Mathes Fuller in 1992,[1] a former aide and later the Deputy Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate.[23]

Symms is a cousin of former Oregon congressman Denny Smith.[24]


Symms was one of several Republican senators who, in 1981, called into the White House to express discontent over the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court; the opposition hinged over the issue of O'Connor's presumed unwillingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.[25]

During the 1988 U.S. presidential election, Symms claimed in a radio interview that a photograph existed from the 1960s showing Kitty Dukakis, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, burning an American flag to protest the Vietnam War. Kitty Dukakis angrily denied the accusation as "totally false and beneath contempt," and Symms later admitted that he could not substantiate it.[26][27] Nevertheless, the claim became national news, as media outlets began searching for the photograph Symms said he had "heard" about.[28] The flag-burning story was one of several false rumors about Dukakis that circulated during the 1988 campaign. "Mr. Symms's comment was the third time in a few days that prominent Republicans have publicly aired allegations that the Democrats have swiftly rebutted," The New York Times reported.[26]

Symms was also one of the only six senators who voted against the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.[29]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

  1. ^ a b "Mathes Family in America, 538: Loretta Aileen Mathes Fuller". Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Symms wants to divorce estranged wife". Idahonian. Moscow. Associated Press. December 6, 1989. p. 12A.
  3. ^ "Senator Steve Symms to marry ex-aide". Sarasota-Herald Tribune. April 13, 1991. p. 2A.
  4. ^ a b Dennis, Anita (June 13, 1991). "Fran Symms picks up pieces after divorce". Idahonian. Moscow. Twin Falls Tribune. p. 1A.
  5. ^ a b "Idaho Senator Separates From His Wife". AP News Archive. Associated Press. June 3, 1987. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  6. ^ "Idaho teachers attack Symms' voting record". Spokane Chronicle. October 14, 1986. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 318.
  9. ^ "Football". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 255.
  10. ^ "Sigma Nu". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1960. p. 219.
  11. ^ "History, Art & Archives_Steven Douglas Symms".
  12. ^ "Anti-Church committee goes national". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. July 13, 1979. p. 5C.
  13. ^ "Broadside fired at Symms". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. August 8, 1980. p. 8.
  14. ^ "Symms basks in the glow of hard-won Senate victory". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Associated Press. November 6, 1980. p. 6A.
  15. ^ Kenyon, Quane (October 28, 1986). "No political truce in Idaho". Spokane Chronicle. Associated Press. p. A4.
  16. ^ Boyle, Diane B. (1995). Senators of the United States: A Historical Bibliography: A compilation of works by and about members of the United States Senate 1789-1995. p. 321.
  17. ^ "SYMMS, Steven Douglas - Biographical Information". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  18. ^ "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1959. p. 300.
  19. ^ Tribune, Elaine S. Povich, Chicago. "SUMMER IS HERE, AND THE CAPITAL IS EMPTYING". Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  20. ^ "Idaho Senator Separates From His Wife". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Official Congressional Directory, Volume 103. United States. Congress. 1993. p. 614.
  24. ^ "SMITH, Dennis Alan (Denny) - Biographical Information". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  25. ^ Greenburg, Jan Crawford. Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.2007. Penguin Books. p. 222.
  26. ^ a b "Story on Mrs. Dukakis Is Denied by Campaign". New York Times. 1988-08-26. Retrieved 2016-05-27. Michael Dukakis's Presidential campaign, responding to comments by Senator Steve Symms, an Idaho Republican, issued a statement Wednesday saying any suggestion that Kitty Dukakis had ever burned an American flag was totally false and beneath contempt.
  27. ^ Susan Estrich (2004-09-04). "Lies move Democrats to dig up dirt". Myrtle Beach Sun. Archived from the original on 2004-09-17. Retrieved 2016-05-27. Or how about the one about Kitty Dukakis burning a flag at an anti-war demonstration, another out-and-out lie, which the Bush campaign denied having anything to do with, except that it turned out to have come from a United States senator via the Republican National Committee? Atwater later apologized to me for that, too, on his deathbed.
  28. ^ E.J. Dionne (1988-08-29). "Political Memo; Accentuating the Positive Can Lead to Nasty Campaign". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-05-27. This campaign got very rough very early, and Kirk O'Donnell, a senior adviser to Mr. Dukakis, said it was shaping up to be among the most negative recent presidential contests. Pointing a finger at the Bush campaign, he said, 'There's no question that rumor has developed into a new art form in this campaign. He was referring to a recent statement by Senator Steve Symms, Republican of Idaho, who said that he understood there were pictures showing that Kitty Dukakis, the candidate's wife, had burned an American flag. Mrs. Dukakis angrily denied the accusation, and Mr. Symms later acknowledged that he had no proof. But it was on television before he drew back.
  29. ^ [Symms was also one of the only six senators who voted against the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Symms was also one of the only six senators who voted against the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.] Check |url= value (help). Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim McClure
United States House of Representatives, Idaho First Congressional District
January 3, 1973–January 3, 1981
Succeeded by
Larry Craig
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert L. Smith
Republican Party nominee, U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Idaho
1980 (won), 1986 (won)
Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Frank Church
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Idaho
January 3, 1981–January 5, 1993
Served alongside: Jim McClure, Larry Craig
Succeeded by
Dirk Kempthorne