The Cardinal of Westwood
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Lewis meets with President George W. Bush.
began his public-service career in 1964 when he
was elected to the San Bernardino Board of Education, on which he
served for five years. He was then elected to the California State
Assembly and served for a decade prior to winning a seat in Congress
his early days in Congress, Lewis has been known as a consensus
builder, and at times his bipartisan ways have led him down some
difficult paths. "As a freshman, I developed an early frustration
with the existence of too much partisanship," he says. "It
was clear that if we develop effective partnerships, we can bring
about long-range change."
of Lewis' greatest strengths has been his ability to look at every
side of an argument and recognize why others might come to different
conclusions, colleagues say.
has always known, even though you have strong opinions, you never
demonize or vilify those who hold different views," says former
Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), who served with Lewis in the California
Assembly and in Congress. "We were on the moderate side of
our respective parties, and we found a way to work together for
the betterment of the nation and of our home state of California."
climbed the ranks of the House Republican leadership, and in 1996
he became the senior Republican in the California House delegation
and was elected chair of the state's 22-member Republican caucus.
He is credited with establishing new lines of communication among
the members, as well as with the Democratic caucus, and producing
a newfound sense of collaboration and cooperation among the state's
emphasized Californians working together on California issues,"
says Lewis. "I pushed for bipartisanship and for seeking alternative
avenues to solutions."
laments how times have changed. "More than half of the new
members of my caucus have been in the majority since they arrived
in Congress," he says. "They don't know what compromise
is, and they carry ideology to the point where it can interrupt
his 30-year career, former Rep. Lou Stokes (D-Ohio) worked closely
with Lewis and knows firsthand how strongly Lewis embraces the notion
of bipartisanship. "The bills Jerry and I worked on were never
in trouble," says Stokes. "We worked out our individual
problems. The system can work if more members of Congress would
be willing to work together."
notes that working together across parties is even more important
today. "We are seeing the abandonment of traditions of Congress
in terms of civility, and it really has the public perplexed,"
says Stokes. "Jerry Lewis is one person who has always sacrificed
partisanship in the interest of the American people and on behalf
of the institution itself."