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- March 04, 1996
- Vol. 45
- No. 9
Her Brother's Keeper
Baby Sister Bay Buchanan Aims to Make Pat Head of the Next First Family
Swinging sharp elbows as the primary season's only female campaign manager, Bay helped engineer her brother's victory in New Hampshire over Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander and the fading Steve Forbes. Certainly, Bay, a political veteran who has worked in six presidential campaigns, beginning with Richard Nixon's 1972 run, has done her part to make Pat Buchanan the man to beat in this week's contests in Arizona, the Dakotas and South Carolina. But though she may carry her brother's message—and share his combative fire—she has always been very much her own woman, with her own sense of family values. She left the Catholic Church to become a Mormon 20 years ago, she divorced her husband, and she is raising three boys—Billy, 13, Tommy, 11, and Stuart, 8—on her own while working 16-hour days. "I have been a single mom for eight years," she says. "You just get up in the morning and get through that day."
The seventh of nine children from a staunchly Catholic family in the plush Washington neighborhood of Chevy Chase, Md., Angela Marie Buchanan is no stranger to the struggle for individual triumph in a crowded field. Her late father, William, an accountant, and her mother, Catherine, a onetime nurse who died last fall, ran a disciplined household in which every, child was expected to study hard and perform household chores. (Bay—short for Baby—washed dishes for a dollar a day.) She was spared the boxing lessons required of her seven brothers (William Jr., Henry, Pat, Jim, Jack, Brian and Tom), but never warmed to the traditional female interests that appealed to her older sister Kathleen. "I went in absolutely the opposite direction," says Bay. She was captain of her Georgetown Visitation Convent school and Rosemont College hockey and basketball teams.
Bay earned a math degree at Rosemont, in Philadelphia, in 1971, then a master's from McGill University in Montreal in 1973. Though a product of the '60s, she showed her political mettle early on as a vocal campus conservative, even sabotaging anti-Vietnam rallies at Rosemont. "I would take all the extension cords for the loudspeakers," she says. A Nixon supporter in 1972, she was devastated by the 1974 Watergate scandal. "These were people I knew," she says. "It became more and more discouraging." Feeling disheartened, she left for Australia.
Working in Sydney as a bookkeeper, she met an American who introduced her to the Mormon faith before she returned to the U.S. two years later. In a painful break with the family that took years to heal, she converted in 1976. When she married William Jackson, a California attorney, in a Mormon ceremony in 1982, only brother Henry attended. "I'd have preferred everyone being there, but they have to make their own choices," she says.
Once her disillusionment over Watergate wore off, she served in Ronald Reagan's campaign in 1976 and again in 1980. He named her U.S. Treasurer, making her the youngest person (at 32) ever to hold the office. Though she resigned when she became pregnant in 1983, she worked for Reagan again during his 1984 reelection bid. In 1990, Bay took her only shot at elective office, losing in a tight primary for California state treasurer. Afterward, she returned to playing hardball on others' behalf. "She gives you an assignment, and she wants results on a deadline, not excuses," says K.B. Forbes, her deputy press aide. "Any idea that women are softer in politics is certainly not true with Bay," says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
It was a blend of political desire and brotherly love that brought Bay back east in 1992, when Pat first ran for President. Like her brother, said Greg Haskin, a GOP leader in California, Bay "has a reputation for not worrying about the mainstream or what's politically correct." Bay and Pat charted their strategy early on, granting countless media phone interviews and campaigning hard in Alaska in mid-January, believing that a win in the non-binding straw poll there would give his candidacy a running start. When victory was theirs, Bay phoned Pat at 4 a.m. with the news. And now, having won in New Hampshire? "It's a frenzy almost when people see him now," says Bay. "They see him in a different light. They see him as the next President."
SAKAH SKOLNIK in New Hampshire and LINDA KRAMER in Washington
- Sakah Skolnik,
- Linda Kramer.
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