Nov. 26, 1976: After Hugh Scott retired from the U.S. Senate in 1976, Republican U.S. Rep. John Heinz ran for Scott’s Senate seat. And won it.He defeated Democrat William J. Green by 265,000 votes despite a 750,000 Democratic registration edge. Here he is, on this Post-Gazette photograph, cheerful and charming, waving to his supporters, standing alongside his wife Teresa Heinz three weeks following the victory.
After the election, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an interview with John Heinz, in which a reporter asked him, “Well, there are those who say this election has made you the hope of the eastern Republican establishment. Do you buy that?”
To which John Heinz responded: “The winner of this election is just grateful to be elected to the U.S. Senate. I have no goal other than to be the best U.S. Senator possible.”
When he was just elected his name was surrounded by controversy. Some people were skeptical, they said John Heinz won the election because of the money. The millionaire heir to the Heinz pickle and ketchup empire spent an estimated $25 million on his political campaign compared to $800,000 that Democrat William J. Green spent. The Democratic opponent of John Heinz described his campaign against the Heinz money as something akin to “taking on a bazooka with a baseball bat.”
In 1976, John Heinz was elected as the first U.S. Senator from Western Pennsylvania since 1952. He was reelected twice in 1982 and then in 1988 and served on the U.S. Senate until his tragic death in a plane crash on Apr. 4, 1991.
The day after his death, the Post-Gazette wrote: “John Heinz’s legislative career was marked by accomplishment and contradiction. A Republican patrician, his greatest impact came on working class, populist issues. Youthful and athletic himself, he concentrated on protecting the interests of the elderly.”
“He was a man born to the manor, but he didn’t waste his life, he gave of it.”