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William Richards "Bill" Bennett (born August 18, 1930) is a retired Nationalist American politician from the state of Pacifica, best known as the son of longtime Governor W.A.C. Bennett, whom he succeeded in 1967. Bennett served two two-year terms as Governor before resigning in favor of Frank Crow, his intra-party rival and then-Attorney General. Having regained the support of his party, Bennett ran for Senate in 1972, assisted by campaign support and money from both outgoing President Richard Van Dyke as well as that year's Presidential nominee, Clyde Dawley, and he narrowly defeated Thomas Berger, a State Senator from Vancouver Island. Bennett would serve in the Senate for three terms until defeated in his 1990 reelection effort by then-Lieutenant Governor Charles Posey.
Bill Bennett was born at Kelowna General Hospital on August 18, 1930 to William Arnold Cecil Bennett, then a representing the area, and May Bennett. He grew up in the wealthy Poplar neighborhood in southern Kelowna and later attended Capitol Academy, a preparatory school in Whiskey Bay, living with his father during this time while the senior Bennett was a state senator. Upon graduating, Bennett attended Stanford University, attaining a degree in law, and returned to Pacifica in 1955 to work for the Attorney General's office, where he would spar with a fellow young lawyer named Frank Crow. In 1952, his father had been elected Governor of Pacifica and built a powerful National Party machine in the state during the 1950s.
Bennett was made Assistant Counsel to the Governor in 1958 and managed his father's 1958, 1960 and 1962 reelection campaigns. The 1960 reelection campaign came under the most scrutiny, as no Pacifica Governor since Richard McBride had served more than eight years. The 1960 election was heavily criticized for Bennett's polarizing political rhetoric on the campaign trail against former Governor Arnold Webster, who was attempting to make a comeback. After Bennett helped his father defeat Webster, the younger Bennett considered running for Congress in 1962, but was convinced to stay on after his father suggested he succeed him as Governor. Bennett would serve as his father's chief of staff during the 1963-1965 and 1965-1967 terms.
In 1966, W.A.C. Bennett announced he would not seek election to an eighth term as Governor and endorsed his son as his preferred candidate. Due largely to the respect and fear of the elder Bennett, no Nationalist entered a primary against Bill Bennett. Bennett selected U.S. Congressman Walter M. Ford as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor and was elected in a successful showing for the National Party in Pacifica, in which they won every statewide elected position, kept the U.S. Senate seat of Bill Durst, and filled all three vacated seats in the U.S. House with freshman Congressmen (Ray Perrault, Donald Munro and Tugg Sturtevant).
Bennett mostly continued his father's economic policies, but found that the growing Democratic presence in the Quad-Cities, in particular amongst the dock worker's unions in Sahalee, was impeding much of his power. In the 1968 election, he barely squeezed out reelection, and found his father's political machine crumbling as conservatives in the interior and upper Vancouver Island feuded with suburban moderates. The feud came to a head in the leadup to the 1970 gubernatorial race, when he faced off against Attorney General Frank Crow in the party primary. Two weeks before the primary and well behind in the polls to Crow, Bennett announced he would not seek reelection to the Governorship, with many Pacifica political observers figuring that his career had more or less ended. Crow advanced to defeat Pacifica State Senator and union activist Robert Strachan in the general election that fall.
Bennett's governorship is largely regarded as a failure. In his four years, he passed little legislation of note, although he did participate in updating Pacifica's road and highway system in anticipation of the Interstate system coming into effect. With Democrats narrowly seizing power in both houses of the state legislature for the first time in state history in 1968, much of his agenda was stymied. He was derided within the party for having an entitled attitude and constantly picking fights with his fellow Nationalists, particular those in the state Senate whom he felt had little patience for the needs of the state interior. However, Bennett is credited with helping push for more land conservation within the state and expanding the state hydroelectric authority.
Bennett spent most of 1971 rehabilitating himself to the Pacifica National Party, in particular his former Lieutenant Governor Walter Ford, who that same year accepted a position as state party chairman. Bennett quietly lobbied Senator Bill Durst, who had served since 1961, to resign his seat so that Bennett could run, as he felt that he could pose a stronger obstacle to Democrats seizing the seat behind Strachan. Crow and Ford, both hoping to get Bennett out of the state, helped convince Durst to not seek reelection and in 1972 Bennett announced he would seek to succeed him. Bennett faced moderate Nationalist Ray Perrault in the primary, defeating the sitting Congressman and advancing to face Strachan, whom he resoundingly defeated.
As a Senator, Bennett served on multiple committees, eventually becoming chairman of the Senate Energy Committee in 1981, and would be the ranking party member on the committee until his defeat in the 1990 election.
Unlike in his home state, Bennett kept a low profile and had relative anonymity as a Senator and was described by party leader John Behr as "the consummate backbencher." As a fiscal conservative and skeptic of American leadership in NATO, Bennett supported the decision of the Shannon administration to reduce the US presence in Brazil in 1983 and 1984, a theme he proudly mentioned in his 1984 reelection campaign in a state largely opposed to the war.
By 1990, Bennett was one of the Senators directly targeted for defeat by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which recruited Pacificia Lieutenant Governor Charles Posey to unseat him. Despite his incumbency and relative social liberalism, Bennett was targeted for his fiscal conservatism and his longtime support of President Robert Redford, who at the time was very unpopular nationwide. Bennett was also portrayed by the Posey campaign as being beholden to mining and logging interests and as being out-of-touch with the booming Sahalee region, despite Bennett having built his political base on Vancouver Island. In one of the narrowest Senate races in the country that year, Bennett was defeated and he returned home having lost the first election of his career.